In March of 2012, The New York Times (NYT) website ran the headline, “Do Women Like Child Care More than Men?” The article answered this question in the affirmative, basing its conclusions on an academic paper by Rhoads and Rhoads (2012), published in the Journal of Social, Evolutionary, and Cultural Psychology. Yet, this study only focused on university professors, thus a highly selective group.
In a new IZA discussion paper, Rachel Connelly and Jean Kimmel test the hypothesis that women “like” child care more than men in the United States using newly available experienced emotions data coupled with time use data. Their research shows that while both men and women “like” child care giving in the sense that they report higher levels of happiness while engaged in child care giving as compared to other daily activities. In fact, men report even higher happiness scores than women, and this difference remains after the authors control for time spent in the activity and the timing of the activity in day, week and year. Connelly and Kimmel also find that women report being more tired and stressed than men in most child care giving activities.
The authors interpret their results as substantial evidence against the popular notion that women perform more unpaid work in the home – particularly activities related to caring for their own children – because they enjoy these activities more than men. In their view, mistaken information about gendered preferences serves to ameliorate concerns about persistent gender wage and achievement gaps: if mothers earn lower wages because they enjoy their time with children more than fathers, why worry about the resulting wage gap? In addition, to the extent that men also enjoy time spent with their young children, men would also benefit from institutional and policy changes that allow both parents to take active roles in parenting, while maintaining their strong continuous labor force commitment.