Fabulous title, eh? For your delectation and intellectual stimulation, may I direct you to the working paper of that name by Garey Ramey and Valerie A. Ramey from the National Bureau of Economic Research, published in August 2009. (So it’s September and I’m behind in my reading. I’ve been travelling. That’s my excuse.)
This working paper looks closely at childcare usage and trends, linking twelve time use surveys from 1965 to 2007.
We argue that the increase in time spent in childcare,
particularly among the college educated, may be a response to an increase in the perceived return
to attending a good college, coupled with an increase in competition in college admissions.
Importantly, the size of college-bound cohorts rose dramatically beginning in the early 1990s,
coincident with the increase in time spent on childcare.
Increased scarcity of college slots appears to have induced heightened rivalry among
parents, taking the form of more hours spent on college preparatory activities. In other words,
the rise in childcare time resulted from a “rug rat race” for admission to good colleges.
Crikey! Then there’s page 14 which looks at Trends in Overall Time Use of Mothers.
Anyway, read through it all, including the later pages where the authors rebut the usual explanations given, including income effects and selection effects.