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We argue that previous research on time devoted to child care has devoted insufficient attention to the definition and conceptualization of care time. Three separate problems are evident. First, the conventional focus on explicit activities with children distracts attention from the larger responsibilities of “passive” care, which ranges from time when children are sleeping to time when they are in the same room but not engaged in an activity with parents. Second, empirical analysis of activity time focuses almost exclusively on parents, overlooking the role of relatives such as grandmothers and siblings. Third, measurement of active care time typically ignores the impact of overlaps among both care providers and recipients. Our analysis of the Child Development Supplement of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics sheds light on these three problems and develops new measures of passive and active care time. Statistical analysis shows that new measures have important implications for the amount of parental care that children in single-parent and two-parent households receive.


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