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Posted at 6:30 AM ET, 03/25/2010

Parents spending time with kids: Good and bad news

By Valerie Strauss

My guest is Debra Viadero, an associate editor of Education Week and author of a blog called Inside School Research.

By Debra Viadero
Earlier this week, education writer Joanne Jacobs alerted us to a study documenting a trend that signals both good and bad news for education.

Here’s the good news: Parents are spending more time with their children. The bad part is that the increase is twice as great for college-educated parents as it is for less-educated parents.

In this study, to be presented at the April 10 conference of the Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, a pair of researchers from the University of California at San Diego analyze 12 time-use surveys conducted between 1965 and 2007.

They figure that parents began spending increasing amounts of time with their children in the 1990s. The researchers explored and discarded some of the usual explanations for the increase, including flexible work schedules for working parents and concerns about safety. Instead, they suggest a new possibility: Worries about increased competition for college entrance.

The authors, Gary and Valerie A. Ramey, argue that parents began devoting more time to their children just as the number of college-bound students surged. What’s more, a major factor in that time increase has been time spent with older children.

The authors bolster their case by comparing data from time-use surveys over the same period in Canada, where the competition for slots in colleges and universities has been more stable and less intense. Parents there aren’t spending any more time with their kids now than they did in the 1980s.

In the United States, they conclude that "increased scarcity of college slots appears to have induced heightened rivalry among parents, taking the form of more hours spent on college preparatory activities."

"In other words," they add, "the rise in childcare time resulted from 'rug rat race' for admission to good colleges."

This trend of increased parental involvement, in general, in the lives of kids has not gone completely unnoticed by child development experts, of course.

There’s been plenty of hand wringing in recent years about ’helicopter parents’ and their ’hothouse’-raised kids.

If the researchers’ conclusions prove true, though, what I worry about is the potential here for expanding the already-persistent achievement gaps between the haves and have-nots in U.S. society.

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By Valerie Strauss  | March 25, 2010; 6:30 AM ET
Categories:  College Admissions, Guest Bloggers, Parents, Research  | Tags:  Debra Viadero, achievement gap, college admissions, research  
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Comments

Thank you for writing on this important topic. With education reform such a hot topic, it’s important to look at all parties involved, not just the policy makers. As a vetted OST program, Higher Achievement (www.higherachievement.org) understands the importance of engaging families as a means of closing the achievement gap. This is why we are making a very pointed and focused effort to develop the necessary resources and supports to better bring our families into our program and most importantly help them become advocates for their children.

Posted by: acohen2 | March 26, 2010 11:39 AM | Report abuse

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