The Rug Rat Race

After three decades of decline, the amount of time spent by parents on childcare in the U.S.
began to rise dramatically in the mid-1990s. Moreover, the rise in childcare time was
particularly pronounced among college-educated parents. While less-educated mothers
increased their childcare time by over four hours a week, college-educated mothers increased
their childcare time by over nine hours per week. Fathers showed the same patterns, but with
smaller magnitudes. Why would highly educated parents increase the amount of time they
allocate to childcare at the same time that their own market returns have skyrocketed? After
finding no empirical support for standard explanations, such as selection or income effects, we
offer a new explanation. We argue that increased competition for college admissions may be an
important source of these trends. We provide empirical support for our explanation with a
comparison of trends between the U.S. and Canada, across ethnic groups in the U.S., and across
states in the U.S.