Many authors suggest that having children leads to gaps between the number of hours people prefer to work and the hours they actually work. Existing research, however, offers mixed support for that claim. We discuss the roots of this popular but poorly supported hypothesis and offer the first review of research on the topic, paying special attention to the theoretical implications of previous findings. We also offer the first evaluation of the hypothesis using U.S. panel data. We find that one particular change, the transition from no children to one child, heightens the desire for fewer hours among men and women. Most arrivals and departures of children, however, are not closely connected to hour mismatches. In part, this is because some workers (particularly women) manage to change their actual hours to match their preferences, but it is also because children have modest effects on preferred hours (especially among men). In sum, having children brings many challenges, but our analysis indicates that children bear little responsibility for the work hour mismatches so many Americans report.
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