Gender Issues: Stay-At-Home Parents

by Elaine Schwartz    •    Sep 23, 2013    •    1357 Views

Bryan Grossbauer is a stay-at-home-dad. The subject of a WSJ focus on the new dad style for raising children, he emphasizes problem solving, cares little about submersion in dirty mud puddles, and ignores household messes. One of close to 190,000 dads who care for the kids when their wives go to work, Bryan is in the minority.

However, Bryan and his wife are like parents everywhere who are trying to figure out the tradeoffs of “stay-at-home.”

In Norway, Cash-for-Care created the incentive for mothers to remain at home with young children for several years rather than using state-subsidized daycare.  In August, 1998, when the program began, Norwegian women, aged 25-54 had an 83% labor force participation rate. With the popularity of Cash-for-Care considerable, close to 65% of families with 1 to 2 year old toddlers joined. One academic study concluded that, reflected by their higher GPA as 10th graders, older siblings benefited when their moms (dads did not) left the labor force for several years.

Focusing on fathers, Norway said in 1993 that 4 weeks of the 42 that were allocated to paid parental leave would be reserved for dads. With their numbers rising from 30% to 70%, dads increasingly took advantage of the option during its first 7 years. One academic study concluded though that they were trading off 2.1% more in future income for increased bonding with their children. (By 2009, Norway had extended paternity leave to 10 weeks.)

Looking at stay-at-home dads and moms through an economic lens takes us to Nobel Laureate Gary Becker. From Dr. Becker’s perspective, the family is a production unit. Using land, labor and capital as inputs, the family raises children, prepares food, generates shelter and participates in communal activities. Sometimes, household members engage in a division of labor whereby someone goes to a workplace and the other remains in the home. At other times, both generate income while they outsource the tasks they do not do. Whatever the solution, as the stay-at-home parent studies suggest, there will be trade-offs.

Sources and resources: Readable and interesting, these academic papers, here and here, presented current research on the costs and benefits of stay-at-home parenting while the WSJ article on dads injected a dose of reality. Then, for the economic complement, it is always enlightening to consider the family from a Becker perspective.

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