Parental education, time in paid work and time with children: an Australian time-diary analysis




How does parental education affect time in the paid workforce and time with children? Potentially, the effects are contradictory. An economic perspective suggests higher education means a pull to the market. Human capital theory predicts that, because higher education improves earning capacity, educated women face higher opportunity costs if they forego wages, so will allocate more time to market work and less to unpaid domestic labour. But education may also exercise a pull to the home. Attitudes to child rearing are subject to strong social norms, and parents with higher levels of education may be particularly receptive to the current social ideal of attentive, sustained and intensive nurturing. Using data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics Time-use Survey 1997, this study offers a snapshot of how these contradictory pulls play out in daily life. It finds that in Australia, households with university-educated parents spend more daily time with children than other households in physical care and in developmental activities. Sex inequality in care time persists, but fathers with university education do contribute more time to care of children, including time alone with them, than other fathers. Mothers with university education allocate more daily time than other mothers to both childcare and to paid work.