Friday, April 09, 2010

Parents are spending more time with their kids -- is it because of college admissions?

Earlier this week, Tara Parker-Pope's Well blog over at the New York Times highlighted findings from a recent study that American parents were spending far more time with their kids than a generation ago. College-educated parents in particular have really stepped up their game -- moms and dads -- which the headline deemed surprising (since more women are in the workforce now than in years past). I don't find it surprising (as I blog about over at My168Hours.com) but what's most interesting is a thesis that doesn't make it into the Well column. The husband and wife economist team, the Rameys, who ran these numbers, speculate that parents are investing more time in their kids because college admissions has gotten more competitive.

In a paper called The Rug Rat Race, they speculate that there are far more college-bound children now than in recent years, and that this surge in college-bound children is concurrent with the rise in investment of parental time. It's a crowded cohort, so you have to do something to make your child stand out.

I don't know about this explanation -- though they do some interesting calculations. On the whole, it seems like a negative gloss on a mostly positive thing: that parents value their time with their children, and so are more likely to engage in that during their non-working hours, instead of other hobbies or housework. Some of it may be sparked by increased competition. But it may just be a broader change in culture, too.

11 comments:

Jeremy said...

Their theory is that thousands of calculating and competitive parents are spending more quality time with their kids primarily to give them an edge in college admissions? That might be the stupidest thing I've heard this week.

The NYT post is interesting, though -- I find it a bit discouraging that college-educated dads spending less than 10 hours a week with their kids could be called "striking gains".

Anonymous said...

Actually, I think this idea that people are spending more time with children because of the competitive nature of college entrance is correct. I think if more people were honest with themselves they would agree. I know that everything I do for my children is to give them a better future and giving them the best and most college options is one way of doing that. Call me cold, calculating or whatever … just call my children MS or PhD.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous--

But what if your children aren't interested in being MS or PhD? The way to give your kids a good future is to bring them up to value people more than money or status, give them the best education you can, and let them choose their own path.

Anonymous said...

Quite frankly, if my children are not interesting in being an MS or PhD, then AFTER they get their MS or PhD they can do or become what ever they would like.

Anonymous said...

I don't believe that's all true or represented correctly. What ever happened to spending time with your kids just because you love them and want to see them grow and discover and be amazed at things? Will it give them an edge? Yes... Is that wrong? No... However, it IS crazy if it's the only motive for being with your kids.

Anonymous said...

If this is, as the blog entry suggests, a change in culture, what sparked the change in culture? This research gives an explanation based on data presented. It may or may not be true; however, there is fact behind it to back up the claim, the idea that culture just changed broadly for no specific reason that does not sit with me. And why are college educated parents in particular spending more time with their children? Do those without college education love and value their time with their kids less than college educated parents do?

Why can’t it be that people value the time they spend with their children AND they want to give their children a lift in education? College educated parents have an advantage as they know what is needed to gain college entrance and what is expected once in college. To say that this does not factor into what direction the children of college educated parents go in would be asinine.

Why do people become amazing at things? Do they do it just to amuse themselves and never share this with the world? If you do share these amazing talents with the world does that not create compaction between others who are good but what to be amazing?

Anonymous said...

My mother was a physician who ended up quitting and staying home with her kids as they hit the teenage years. It wasn't a question of getting us into prestigious colleges, though some of us in fact did that -- it was a question of keeping us ALIVE. She had three or four highly gifted teenagers on her hands all through the late sixties and early seventies. You can probably guess what that was like.

hschinske said...

Quite frankly, if my children are not interesting in being an MS or PhD, then AFTER they get their MS or PhD they can do or become what ever they would like.

My parents brought me up in almost the opposite way: to be educated regardless of what schools I attended, and regardless of what degrees I attained. I might want to get degrees for practical reasons (I do in fact have a bachelor's and a master's, and two of my sibs have PhDs), but that was quite a different matter.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

Helen-

Why does it have to be the opposite? Why can’t it be both? I was speaking matter of fact-ly on one aspect of education that does not mean it is mutually exclusive to the being educated. Now, if you are saying that your parents left the decision of attending college up to you then I agree it is the opposite, but to assume that because I will insist on my children going to college and complete their degrees means that I do not value them becoming educated in the world or enjoy learning for its own reward or that I will not teach them to value people then that is incorrect. I understand the frank nature in which I framed my responses may offend people but to use that as a basis for assumptions on what I do or do not value would be a bit ridiculous. We are all complex people with many more facets and views than can be expressed in one paragraph sound bits.

hschinske said...

I just don't see how you MAKE an adult do anything (or indeed how you make a child get into college, if they choose to flunk out instead -- the choice of doing nothing is always available). You can influence their choice, sure, by treating college as being the most ordinary path for people-like-us to take. But that's only going to get you so far. Anyone who truly doesn't want to go to college can simply refuse.

And when it comes to trying to make someone do graduate school when they don't want to, that, to me, enters the realm of undue interference in an adult child's life, right up there with trying to make them marry someone they don't want to.

No one made me go to college. I was told that it was the obvious path, and that my parents would help me take that path, and so forth, but I certainly knew it wasn't the only possibility in the world, and that while my parents would be disappointed if I didn't go to college, they'd support whatever choice I made.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

Well, college was never an option for me or my sibling, or any other person in my family; it was always spoken of as the next step in life just like you are required to go to High School. We all went to college and we all graduated. I was being a bit facetious when I said call my children MS or PhD however the majority of the people in my family are MS or PhD. I plan to do the same with my children. I guess the fact that you don’t see how someone can make an adult child do anything is basically a difference that can be explained as a difference in culture. American culture sees everyone as an individual and values the rights of the individual over the rights of the whole. There are may other cultures where the rights of the whole are valued over the rights of the individual. Therefore, I understand how you can see things from a different perspective and basically, that’s all it is, a different perspective.