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Parental time investments in children across countries and over time: What are the implications for inequality?

Dr Almudena Sevilla, Reader in Economics at the School of Business and Management, has recently been awarded £81,237 under the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) called“Secondary Data Analysis Initiative Phase 1 (2012)”.

Entitled 'Parental time investments in children across countries and over time: What are the implications for inequality?', the project will run between October 2012 and October 2014. The main objective will be to use high quality diary data on individual's activities matched to country-level institutional data for several industrialized countries to explore the relationship between parental education and parental time investments in children, how this relationship has changed over the last five decades, and the factors underlying these trends.

The policy relevance of this research is clear. Given the Government's interest in reducing inequality, this study will add to the body or work on the transmission of opportunities from parents to children by being the first study, to our knowledge, to assess the impact of the different institutional variables on the time parents with different educational attainment spend with their children. To the extent that less educated parents spend less time with their children than higher educated parents, and that less educated parents engage in child care activities that are less likely to contribute to the human capital of their children, there is scope for early interventions to equalize time with children across families from different social class backgrounds.

Detailed research questions

Against the background of evidence about the importance of parental time investments in children and children's development, this project will aim to:

- Document patterns of time devoted to parental time investment activities by mothers and fathers for several industrialized countries over a five decade period.

- Explore whether trends in parental time investments differ by parental educational background.

- Explore whether trends in parental time investments by parental educational background depend on the type of economy (e.g. neo-liberal; social democratic, etc) and the employment and welfare systems in different countries.

- Investigate the factors that may be associated with different trends in child care time for parents with different educational attainments across countries. These explanations include selection into parenthood, income effects, safety concerns, involved parenting, lack of acceptable substitutes, competition for college admissions, family composition, and job type and hours of work.

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