childbearing outside of marriage, higher divorce rates, single parenthood, and work patterns of parents (NRC, 2003). Among the many important transformations that have occurred are expanded job opportunities for women, which have led to more women entering the workforce. Economic necessities have also prompted this trend. Moreover, married mothers are increasingly more likely than they were in the past to remain in the labor force throughout their childbearing years.
Women’s participation in the labor force increased from 36 percent in 1960 to 58 percent in 2000 (Luckett Clark and Weismantle, 2003). Since 1975, the labor force participation rate of mothers with children under age 18 has grown from 47 to 72 percent, with the largest increase among mothers with children under 3 years of age (U.S. Department of Labor, 2004). Over the same period, men’s labor force participation rates declined slightly from 78 percent to 74 percent (Population Reference Bureau, 2004b). In 2002, only 7 percent of all U.S. households consisted of married couples with children in which only the husband worked.
These trends, together with lower fertility rates, a decrease in average household size, and the shift in household demographics from primarily married couples with children to single person households and households without children, have caused the number of meal preparers in U.S. households who cook for three or more people to decline (Population Reference Bureau, 2003; Sloan, 2003).
It has been suggested that smaller households experience fewer economies of scale in home preparation of meals than do larger families. Preparing food at home involves a set amount of time for every meal that changes minimally with the number of persons served. Eating meals out involves the same marginal costs per person. Moreover, changes in salary and the lower prices of prepared foods may have reduced the value of time previously used to prepare at-home meals. Thus, incentives have been shifted away from home production toward eating more meals away from home (Sturm, 2004). Time-use trends for meal preparation at home reveal a gradual decline from 1965 to 1985 (44 minutes per day versus 39 minutes per day) and a steeper decline from 1985 to 1999 (39 minutes per day versus 32 minutes per day) (Robinson and Godbey, 1999; Sturm, 2004).
The racial and ethnic composition of children in the United States is becoming more diverse. In 2000, 64 percent of U.S. children were white non-Hispanic, 15 percent were black non-Hispanic, 4 percent were Asian/ Pacific Islander, and 1 percent were American Indian/Alaska Native. The proportion of children of Hispanic origin has increased more rapidly than the other racial and ethnic groups from 9 percent of the child population in