factor both in their own direct nonmarket production and in the subsequent development of their children’s capabilities (Leibowitz, 1974).


We concluded above that our knowledge base is not yet sufficient to warrant development of a comprehensive human capital satellite account. Having so concluded, however, we believe there is merit in considering what can be said about the magnitude of household investments in children, if for no other reason than to understand what implicitly is neglected when researchers focus on the production of human capital in the educational sector, the production of health capital in the health care sector, and so on.

Production of a child possessing any level of human capital typically requires both out-of-pocket expenditures on behalf of the child and inputs of parental time. As is true with other sorts of home production, out-of-pocket expenditures on children already are reflected in the national income and product accounts. What is not reflected is the time that parents and other family members devote to children.

Time-use studies from a number of countries indicate that married or cohabiting mothers of children under age 5 average between 2 and 3 hours a day in primary child care, depending on their hours of paid employment, while fathers average about 1 hour a day (Gauthier et al., 2001). In these studies, primary care is defined as time during which caring for a child is the primary activity in which a parent or other adult is engaged. If the reported figures seem small, it is because primary care represents only a small share of total time devoted to (or constrained by) children. Family members often care for children while simultaneously engaging in other activities, such as preparing meals or watching television. Survey results from Australia, a country that collects detailed information on secondary activities as part of its ongoing time-use data program, show that counting secondary activities more than doubles the hours devoted to child care (Ironmonger, 2003). The need to be available or “on call” also imposes significant constraints on parental schedules. Like firemen who spend relatively little of their time fighting fires, parents stand ready to provide attention, even when children are sleeping.

In recent cognitive pretesting for the American Time Use Survey (ATUS), the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that participants “strongly suggested that the concept of secondary child care is not intuitively meaningful, because most parents would consider those activities, ‘just part of being a parent’” (Schwartz, 2002, p. 35). That task, “being a parent,” extends well beyond tallies of activity hours. Statistics Canada opted for a national time-use survey that omits consideration of secondary activities but includes stylized questions regarding care time. The Bureau of Labor Statistics adopted a similar strategy for the ATUS, asking

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