Family Proximity, Childcare, and Women's Labor Force Attachment
Roughly 25 percent of women living within 25 miles of their mothers receive work-related childcare from them, [compared with] only 4.2 percent of women living more than 25 miles away.
Married women with children under age 12 are 4-to-10 percent more likely to work if they live within 25 miles of their mothers or mothers-in law. In Family Proximity, Childcare, and Women's Labor Force Attachment (NBER Working Paper No. 17678), Janice Compton and Robert A. Pollak suggest that this higher employment rate is the result of better access to both regularly scheduled childcare and to "insurance" care, care that can be provided on an irregular basis or on short notice.
The data for this study come from the U.S. Census and from the National Survey of Families and Households, which sampled 13,007 households in 1987-8 and followed up five years later. The authors focus on women aged 25 to 60 whose mothers (or mothers-in-law) were alive and living in the United States. They find that roughly 25 percent of women living within 25 miles of their mothers receive work-related childcare from them. Almost 20 percent of women within the same proximity of their mothers-in-law receive work-related childcare from them. About 4 percent of women living more than 25 miles away from their mothers or mothers-in-law receive work-related childcare from them.
Close proximity is also strongly correlated with education. Among couples in which neither spouse had a college degree, 46 percent lived within 25 miles of both mothers, while only 17 percent of couples where both spouses were college graduates lived in such proximity.