Abstract

Previous research on fathers as child-care providers indicates a need to study the father’s role in child care in the context of different economic cycles. Using data from the 1988, 1991, and 1993 panels of the Survey of Income and Program Participation, we examine whether father’ availability and the couple’s economic resources are differentially related to child care by fathers over time. We focus on the differences between 1991—a recession year—and 1988 and 1993—two nonrecession years. Increased availability of fathers is significantly related to higher levels of fathers’ participation in child care in all three years. Relative economic resources between husbands and wives help explain care by fathers only during the recession year, whereas family income is important only in the nonrecession years. These results suggest that in the future, researchers should acknowledge fluctuations in the economy when studying husbands’ participation in traditional female tasks, as macroeconomic shifts appear to impact the likelihood of married fathers caring for their preschoolers during mothers’ working hours.

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