Parents spending more time with teens, college race blamed
Two economists who work 2,274 miles away have identified the essence of parenthood in the Washington area since 1995. It turns out we have been spending all that time with our older children — chauffeuring, applauding, coordinating, correcting, planning, obsessing — because we have a deep need to beat the other stressed-out parents in getting our kids into good colleges.
The researchers are Garey and Valerie A. Ramey, a married couple at the University of California-San Diego. They have done the hyper-active parent thing themselves and have a son at Stanford University to show for it. They also admit that most of this exhaustive parenting is done not by men but by women, including, by her own account, Ms. Ramey herself. To sum up, college-graduate soccer moms are trying to outdo all the other soccer moms to get their children into a good school so their daughters can repeat the cycle with their own children.
The Rameys met at the University of Arizona, where both graduated summa cum laude. They are brainy academics who like playful labels, so their study is titled “The Rug Rat Race.” They cite national time-use surveys to show that between 1995 and 2000 the hours spent by college-educated women caring for or handling travel and activities for their older children increased from 6.6 to 10 a week. This was driven, they say, by the “increasingly severe cohort crowding at quality schools” like the University of Pennsylvania, Rice University or UCSD. “Increased scarcity of college slots appears to have heightened rivalry among parents, taking the form of more hours spent on college preparatory activities,” they conclude.
We knew this, of course. But it is nice to have the meaning of all that driving confirmed by economists. If they win the Nobel Prize we can claim a share.
Take me, for example. The youngest Mathews turned 11 in 1995, after both her brothers had left home. The years that followed are still a blur, but I recall sneaking out of work a lot. Reporters have many excuses for being hard to reach. Katie took care of her school work herself. But my wife and I took her to soccer practice, basketball practice and softball practice, that last sport becoming her favorite. We traveled to other states for tournaments. We stayed in strange motels. We choked on the dust from batting cages. We cheered. We commiserated.
All that time I told myself I was having fun. I was not good at games when I was her age. I loved watching my daughter, with her mother’s well-coordinated genes, hitting line drives over left fielders. I also enjoyed our many college visits.
But my entertainment is not the issue, the Rameys insist. Surveys suggest parents on average do not consider caring for or hauling their kids that much of a kick. Time use studies in Canada, where students rarely compete for admission to prestigious national universities, reveal educated parents are spending about the same number of hours with their kids as they did in the mid-1980s, while educated U.S. parents, spurred by college competition, are spending much more time with their children now.
Don’t fret. The Rameys say our time was not wasted. “The Rug Rat Race provides a useful stimulus to human capital investment,” they said. Translation: These activities were good for our kids. While I have no survey data to prove it, I think they were also good for us. We don’t see Katie so much any more, but we have warm memories of what it was like to drive the car and sit in the stands and be a regular part of her life.
Read Jay's blog every day at http://washingtonpost.com/class-struggle.
| April 4, 2010; 10:00 PM ET
Categories: Metro Monday | Tags: Garey and Valerie Ramey, college competition influence U.S. parents, parents spending more time with teens
Save & Share: Previous: Unlike many, Escalante believed in teaching, not sorting
Next: How real student in the Escalante movie turned out
Posted by: altaego60 | April 5, 2010 7:22 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: tommarjoriecole | April 5, 2010 8:05 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: xiciaoscis1 | April 5, 2010 9:36 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: lagibby1 | April 5, 2010 9:57 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: kirsten2 | April 5, 2010 10:03 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: Jay Mathews | April 5, 2010 10:15 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: mccxxiii | April 5, 2010 10:36 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: k5user | April 5, 2010 10:47 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: JCR7 | April 5, 2010 10:52 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: maximus12 | April 5, 2010 11:23 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: CrimsonWife | April 5, 2010 12:00 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: RunAwayFarAway | April 5, 2010 5:23 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: emilymb1 | April 5, 2010 10:18 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: afsljafweljkjlfe | April 6, 2010 11:23 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: ladiesccbc | April 6, 2010 2:27 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Hunterwali | April 7, 2010 12:10 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: bslaxin3 | April 8, 2010 10:02 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: ladiesccbc | April 8, 2010 2:18 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Hunterwali | April 9, 2010 4:29 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: ladiesccbc | April 9, 2010 10:51 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: bslaxin3 | April 9, 2010 3:03 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Hunterwali | April 9, 2010 3:17 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Hunterwali | April 9, 2010 3:18 PM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.