Gendering the cost of children in terms of time: an estimate for Italy with time-use survey data

Maria-Letizia Tanturri, University of Padua

The high cost of children in terms of time may be an important factor associated with low fertility in Italy, but empirical data are lacking. This paper investigates how Italian couples’ time dedicated to childcare, unpaid and total work varies by presence, number and age of children. The methodology is a loose adaptation of that used for the estimate of the monetary cost of children. The analysis is based on a sample of 4,827 couples –childless or with at least one child under thirteen – using the Italian Time Use survey of 2002-2003. OLS model results corroborate the hypothesis that Italian children are great time consumers. Ceteris paribus, parents' workload increases by more than 3 hours a day when there is a child under 3. Time costs increase with the number of children, albeit less than proportionally, and decrease with the age of the youngest child. Most of these costs are borne by women. Mothers of one child under 3 increase their workload time by 2 hours a day, while fathers by little less than 1. If children are three and one is an infant, mothers have to work 3 hours a day more while men less than 2.5. The costs of children shrink considerably when children reach school-age, but they still remain substantial for mothers. The gender role-set seems to be less unequal as the number of children grows: for the first infant women pay 64% of the incremental cost of children, while for three children (the youngest under three) they pay 57%. Conversely, the proportion of incremental child-cost paid by women increases as the age of the youngest increases. In this case men seem to activate themselves only in case of extreme need, that is when children are babies.

Presented in Session 28: Economics and labor market issues