How COVID-19 changed the role of fathers in childcare

New study by Michaela Kreyenfeld suggests that less-educated fathers increased their childcare hours the most.

The pandemic has led to concerns on how families cope with the new reality of working from home while juggling childcare and remote schooling at the same time. Hertie School Professor of Sociology Michaela Kreyenfeld and Sabine Zinn of Deutsches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung published a paper on this topic in Demographic Research. The new study aims to answer the question of whether there has been a shift in families when it comes to gender roles in childcare, comparing data from before and during the first lockdown in Germany.

Analysing how parents in Germany spent time with their children during the first shutdown that began in March 2020, the co-authors suggest that both mothers and fathers increased the time they spent with their kids to similar degrees, and that women continue to perform the bulk of childcare tasks.

However, a key finding is that less educated fathers increased the time spent with their children significantly more than highly-educated fathers did. In fact, less-educated fathers posted the largest gain in time spent with children compared to parents in any other grouping.

“The coronavirus crisis pushed fathers with low or medium levels of education towards greater involvement with their children,” the authors write. “[They were] more likely to increase the time they spent with their children largely because they had more time at their disposal as a result of being in short-time work or unemployed.”

This finding, they add, challenges the results of prior studies, which have regarded the highly educated as leaders in involved fatherhood.

The study was based on representative and longitudinal data from the German Socio-Economic Panel (GSOEP).

Read the full paper here.

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