The most incisive guide to issues facing the American family today . . . An invaluable resource for anyone wishing to stay on the cutting edge of research on family trends.

-W. Bradford Wilcox
Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Virginia 

Winter
2013

Children Not Responsible for Work Hours Mismatch


Bryce J. Christensen and Nicole M. King


Children are time consuming, as any good parent knows. Most adults believe that childless couples have the decided career advantage of not having to worry about taking Johnny to baseball practice. But according to Jeremy Reynolds and David R. Johnson, two researchers from the University of Georgia, children may perhaps be less responsible for differences in work hours mismatch (defined as hours actually worked as compared with hours preferred) than hitherto supposed.

Reynolds and Johnson claim that although most researchers expect that children have a profound influence on hour mismatches, studies have conflicted greatly in their results, suggesting to the authors “that much research on hour mismatches, the efforts to combat them and even the underlying emphasis on work-family conflict may be misguided.”

The authors aim to study “the child-mismatch hypothesis.” “According to this perspective,” they write, “time and energy are finite resources, and people who spend them caring for children will have less time and energy to spend on paid work and other activities (Greenhaus and Beutell 1985).” Gender differences play a role here. Because the workplace is primarily structured for men, and because childcare tends to fall to women, women in the workplace should expect to see a greater hours mismatch then men.

The researchers use data from the National Survey of Families and Households (NSFH) to study the validity of the child-mismatch hypothesis. Working with a sample size of 6,820 men and 6,925 women, Reynolds and Johnson measure differences in mismatch in several waves of data collection. They “subtract preferred hours from actual hours to produce a variable that is positive when people are working more hours than they prefer and negative when they are working fewer hours than they prefer.”

Analyzing data from wave one, the authors first discover that differences in hour mismatch are gendered: “Men work approximately 8 hours per week more than women, and their preferred hours are about 9 hours higher than women’s. . . . Women, however, are more likely than men to

 

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