We examine how state spending on children is associated with the size of socioeconomic gaps in maternal childcare time.
Persistent socioeconomic divides in the amount and nature of parental time with children have prompted consideration of the factors that mitigate inequalities within the family. At both the national and local levels, the welfare state plays an important role in structuring opportunities for children. Thus, it is important to understand the institutional factors that shape parental behavior. Yet, little research examines how the social safety net is associated with family processes.
Using rich data on maternal time with children from the American Time Use Surveys (2003–2016), combined with longitudinal data on public spending in states on major programs affecting children and families, we examine how state spending on children is associated with the size of socioeconomic gaps in maternal childcare time.
We found that higher levels of state spending were associated with significant increases in childcare time among low-educated mothers at both the extensive and intensive margin, increasing the likelihood of spending any minutes on primary childcare in a typical day, as well as increasing the number of minutes spent on childcare. In contrast, we observed no variation in the behavior of highly educated mothers as state spending changes.
State-level investments could meaningfully narrow socioeconomic gaps in maternal time with children.