Rug Rats Race for College May Hurt the Economy

There are obviously a lot of reasons for the drastic downturn in the economy.  
Now a UC study shows college-educated mothers who are spending more time with their kids, could be contributing to the problem. The study, descriptively titled "The Rug Rat Race" finds,  college-educated women are spending nine more hours a week with their children, and less-educated mothers are spending four more hours a week.  
The trend has been increasing drastically since the 1990's. The  study found that after three decades of decline, the amount of time mothers dedicated to their children soared over the last 20 years.  
"I was shocked to find moms with graduate degrees who had quit their jobs because they needed more time to drive their children to activities," said UC San Diego economics professor Valerie Ramey who along with her husband professor Garey Ramey spent three years conducting the study.  
They reviewed data from 12 U.S. surveys descibing how people spend their time and realized they were onto a national trend.  
The reason these moms are driving these children to organized activities like music lessons, dance lessons, soccer and on and on is because competition to get into elite or prestigious universities is so stiff. Even though there are more kids who want to go to top colleges, those institutions are not increasing their enrollment. Spaces are fewer, so there is more competition for those spaces, says  Valerie Ramey.
Since extracurricular activities count in college admissions, what's happening is, parents are starting early to take their kids to these outside coordinated activities  because they think it will help their child get an edge on the competition,
The Rameys tested their hypothesis in a comparison study with Canada because they speak the same language, read same childcare books. But competition for higher education isn't as stiff there.  Canadian students usually go to local colleges within their own province and testing isn't as rigorous.  The study found the time parents spent with their children remained flat over the last twenty years.  So the Rameys say it reinforced their theory.

You can see it in California says Ramey. The UC system with its limits on enrollment and budget cutbacks is making enrollment "tougher for kids to get into good public universities," says Valerie Ramey.

In addition, Ramey says if these highly educated moms spend more time with the kids, then they are spending less time in the labor force which means they are not paying taxes, or putting money into social security  (or the economy). "  "It's a huge reallocation of resources. The way people spend their time, how they are doing it" could mean a shift in "overall economic growth," she adds.

"Most people agree that spending time with your kids is good but at some point the benefit might be less than having them contribute to the labor force, " says Ramey.

It's indeed something to think about. And then, there's the added stress of getting the kids to and participating in all these outside activities. There is stress  on the whole family in over scheduling,  adds Ramey.  But that's another study.


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