The time-cost of children in France: time budget constraints and women’s economic activity

Olivia Ekert-Jaffe, Institut National d'Études Démographiques (INED)

Using the 1998 time-use survey for France, this paper aims to estimate a time cost for children. It first discusses the difficulties of such a measure – similar to those raised widely in the literature about the difficulty in identifying objective equivalence scales – in evaluating the monetary cost of children. The measure is subjective and depends upon a criterion of family welfare when the number of children changes. As such a criterion, I propose to evaluate the relative time cost of children by measuring the personal time (physiological plus leisure) of parents who are both employed full time, and I discuss its advantages and drawbacks. The estimations take account of income endogeneity and sample selection by modelling simultaneously labor force participation, labor incomes and time budgets. We test various interactions: does the time cost vary with couple characteristics? We also examine how this cost is shared between fathers and mothers. Finally, we model the cost share in term of full income. The estimations yield substantial time-cost figures. For example, for a family with three children, one of whom is aged under 3, the real time cost of the children is comparable to that associated with a full-time paid job, to be equally shared by the mother and the father. The parents of 3 children, one of whom is under 3, with a childminder have 22 hours a day for themselves, or roughly 11 hours each. Eleven hours for the full-time working mother for sleeping, personal care, eating and, perhaps, a little leisure . If her health is not up to it and she cannot or will not put up with this pace, she has to choose between a part-time job, with the lower standard of living that implies, or having fewer children.

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Presented in Session 17: Time allocation between spouses

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