Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Parental Work Schedules and Child-Care Arrangements in Low-Income Families

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Parental Work Schedules and Child-Care Arrangements in Low-Income Families

Article excerpt

Working conditions matter for families as well as for workers themselves. During the past several decades, as labor protections have weakened and working conditions have deteriorated by a number of standards-including safety, compensation, and scheduling-researchers have explored how aspects of work may affect those to whom employees are connected. Particular attention has been paid to the consequences of evening- and night-shift schedules-referred to here as nonstandard schedules-for workers' children, including effects on their child-care arrangements, which have been found to be less stimulating or developmentally productive (Han, 2004; Kimmel & Powell, 2006). Previous research has demonstrated associations between maternal nonstandard work schedules and increased use of coparental, relative, and home-based care; decreased use of center-based care; and increases in the number of care providers employed (Enchautegui, Johnson, & Gelatt, 2015; Han, 2004, 2005; Kimmel & Powell, 2006; Presser, 2003).

This research, however, leaves a number of issues unresolved. First, although this literature has been primarily concerned with questions of what types of care parents select (i.e., home-based, center-based, or relative care), the literature on child care and children's development suggests that attention also be paid to other characteristics of child-care arrangements, such as complexity and continuity of care. Second, most of the research on child-care choice deals with work schedules of only one parent, typically the mother, ignoring the potentially exacerbating or moderating effects of the other parent's schedule (if they are present in the household). Third, research to date has relied almost exclusively on traditional shift definitions and has failed to explore the emergence and effects of new working schedules. Finally, all previous analyses of these questions rest on data collected in the early 1990s or earlier. It is unclear whether the same relationships continue to hold in the current day.

I employ the 2012 National Survey of Early Care and Education (NSECE) to analyze the relationships between parental work schedules and the type, complexity, and continuity of child care for young children in low-income households. Analysis is restricted to single-mother and heterosexual two-partner households with children younger than age 5 who fall below 200% of the poverty line. Households with children younger than school age are typically in greatest need of care, and those living at or below the poverty line represent the most vulnerable population. They are also the population whose members are most likely to work a nontraditional schedule (Enchautegui, 2013; Hamermesh, 2002; Presser, 2003). Rather than impose increasingly ill-suited, traditional shift definitions, I derive work schedules from detailed scheduling data using sequence analysis and clustering techniques not previously applied in this literature. I show how these work schedules are associated with the use of home-based, center-based, and relative care; the overall complexity of child-care arrangements; and the continuity of child care. As used here, home-based care refers to regular, paid care provided by an individual who does not have a prior relationship with the child; center-based care is regular, organizational care; and relative care is regular care provided by a family or household member of the child. Care complexity, as introduced here, is a new measure and represents an alternative to care multiplicity. Multiplicity has typically been operationalized as a count of how many nonparental care providers a child has (or a binary indicator of having more than one). Care complexity, by contrast, exploits the richness of the NSECE data to account for the number, ordering, and variation in time spent with each unique care provider (Aisenbrey & Fasang, 2010; Elzinga, 2006, 2010; Elzinga & Liefbroer, 2007). In two-partner households, I take the work schedules of both partners into account; this is the first study to consider the effects of two-partner scheduling on child-care arrangements. …

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