NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Mechanisms for the Association Between Maternal Employment and Child Cognitive Development

John Cawley, Feng Liu

NBER Working Paper No. 13609
Issued in November 2007
NBER Program(s):   CH   ED   LS

Recent research has found that maternal employment is associated with worse child performance on tests of cognitive ability. This paper explores mechanisms for that correlation. We estimate models of instrumental variables using a unique dataset, the American Time Use Survey, that measure the effect of maternal employment on the mother's allocation of time to activities related to child cognitive development. We find that employed women spend significantly less time reading to their children, helping with homework, and in educational activities in general. We find no evidence that these decreases in time are offset by increases in time by husbands and partners. These findings offer plausible mechanisms for the association of maternal employment with child cognitive development.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w13609

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