Interactive: The changing economics of the American family

In “Finding Time: The Economics of Work-Life Conflict,” author Heather Boushey explores the disconnect between current U.S. labor policy and the increasingly harried lives of American workers. Many of the policies that govern our working lives were written decades ago. American family structures and the arrangements American workers have with their employers have changed rapidly over that period. The result is that individuals and families both find themselves crunched for time in the new economy.

This animation introduces some of the issues discussed in the book. Scroll down to follow the story of the changing economics of the American family.

Finding Time Interactive
image/svg+xmlFemale black symbol
Families $27k
Men $21k
Women $9k
Median Incomes, 2014 $
Male labor force participation
Female labor force participation
Scroll down to see how labor force participation and income has changed for men and women since 1948. Recessions are shaded gray.
For decades, female participation in the U.S. labor force and female pay rose, and family income rose with it.
But male labor force participation declined over this same period.
Worse yet, male median income has been stagnant since 1979.
The result is that family incomes grew quickly before 1979 but have risen slowly since.
But the problem isn't just that incomes are stagnant.
Unlike in 1948, both parents (or a single parent) work.
Mothers are doing more paid work and more child care. Fathers are doing more housework and child care.
So families are working more but incomes are flat.
This isn't just a problem for families. It's a problem for our economy.
Facing increasing time and income constraints, workers are less productive, and worker turnover is higher.
The problem is that our workplaces and our economic policies weren't designed with modern families in mind.

Resolving these problems requires policymakers to rethink the relationship between employers and employees. In “Finding Time,” Boushey explains how doing so won’t just help families reclaim lost time—it will also benefit our economy.

Sources: Family, female, and male median income figures from the U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, Annual Social and Economic Supplements, tables P2 and F7. Female and male labor force participation rates from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, LNS11300001 and LNS1130000 2, retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Data on percentage of children with full-time caregivers from Philip Cohen’s analysis of the American Community Survey. Data on time use of mothers and fathers from Suzanne M. Bianchi, John P. Robinson, and Melissa A. Milkie, Changing Rhythms of American Family Life (Russell Sage Foundation, 2006): American Time Use Survey, from: Council of Economic Advisers, Work-Life Balance and the Economics of Workplace Flexibility, June 2014.

April 20, 2016

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