Unless you have a lot of time to geek out on Freakonomics, you can skip the radio show and just skip to the text below. Taken from a transcript of the show, this exchange serves as an appropriate follow-up to the Freakonomics on fatherhood post. According to these economists, the increase in parenting duties for college-educated mothers, and the cause, is even more freaky/intriguing:
RAMEY: So, in the 1980’s, the average, young, college-educated mother spent thirteen hours per week on childcare.
DUBNER: That’s Valerie Ramey again. She and her husband Gary, also an economist, analyzed data from the American Time Use Survey.
RAMEY: Now, it’s 22 hours a week. So, the amount of time has increased by nine hours a week.
DUBNER: Nine hours. So, that’s about a seventy percent increase, that’s a huge increase.
RAMEY: It’s a huge increase.
RAMEY: Now, what’s interesting is over this same time period, the wages of college-educated women have really increased. So, the opportunity cost of time has increased at the same time they’ve decided to spend more time taking care of their children.
DUBNER: So, to an economist, like you, that has to be a little bit baffling, yes?
RAMEY: Yes, it is a puzzle.
DUBNER: After declining for decades, the amount of time that parents spent on childcare started to rise in the 1990’s and then skyrocketed in the 2000’s, especially among college-educated moms. Why? The Rameys found a surprising answer: college. Specifically: the increased competition for kids to get into good colleges. These high-end parents weren’t simply babysitting; they were chauffeuring their kids to the kind of extracurricular activities that look good on a college application. The Rameys called it the rug-rat race. You want to know the strangest part? Valerie Ramey was a prime offender — until her family put a stop to it.