Just-in-Time Child Care: Child Care in the Context of Work Schedule Uncertainty

Kristen Harknett , University of California, San Francisco
Daniel Schneider, University of California, Berkeley
Sigrid Luhr, University of California, Berkeley

Working parents must arrange care for their young children when they are at work. For parents with unstable and unpredictable work schedules, the logistics of arranging care can be complex. In this paper, we use new data for a sample of 3,653 parents who balance work in the service sector with parenting children 0 to 9 years old. Our results demonstrate that unstable and unpredictable work schedules have consequences for children’s care arrangements. We find that parents’ exposure to on-call work and last-minute shift changes are associated with more numerous care arrangements, reliance on informal care arrangements, the use of siblings to provide care, and with young children being left without adult supervision. Given the well-established relationship between quality of care in the early years and child development, just-in-time scheduling practices are likely to have consequences for child development and safety and potentially contribute to the intergenerational transmission of disadvantage.

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 Presented in Session 82. Economic Instability and Family Well-being