Hidden Costs Of Child Care? The Relationship between Child Care Problems and Mothers’ Stress, Labor Force Participation and Earnings

Margaret L. Usdansky, Syracuse University

Past research demonstrates that many working mothers experience frequent child care disruptions and often miss work when providers fall ill or are otherwise unavailable. But little is known about the consequences of these events for mothers. This paper explores whether child care disruptions and resulting missed work are associated with any of the following potential negative consequences: heightened maternal stress; reduced satisfaction with parenting; increased job turnover; reductions in work hours; leaving the labor force; and earning lower wages. The data for this analysis come from the Fragile Families and Child Well-Being Study (N=4898), one of the few large, national panel studies to investigate mothers’ experiences with child care. Because little is known about this topic, the paper begins with a detailed descriptive analysis. I then use a variety of multivariate techniques, including fixed effect models, to ascertain whether bivariate relationships persist once controls for potential confounding factors are added.

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Presented in Poster Session 1