Ariel Kalil
Susan E. Mayer
William Delgado
Lisa A. Gennetian

College-educated mothers spend substantially more time in intensive childcare than less educated mothers despite their higher opportunity cost of time and working more hours. Using data from the 2010–2013 and 2021 waves of the Well-being Module of the American Time Use Survey, we investigate this puzzle by testing the hypothesis that college-educated mothers enjoy childcare more. We find that among all mothers, spending time in childcare is associated with higher positive feelings compared to spending time in other activities. However, college-educated mothers experience no more positive feelings and no fewer negative feelings during intensive childcare than other mothers. Moreover, college-educated mothers report substantially fewer positive feelings for time spent in management activities and substantially more negative feelings for time spent in educational activities with their child. Findings are robust to controlling for a rich set of covariates, mother fixed effects, and simulations to account for selection into intensive childcare.

Publication Type
Working Paper
File Description
First version, September, 2023
JEL Codes
D13: Household Production and Intrahousehold Allocation
J13: Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
J22: Time Allocation and Labor Supply
parental time investment
intensive childcare
maternal enjoyment
maternal education
time use