Burtless, Gary Gornick, Janet Smeeding, Timothy M.
Year of Publication:
LIS Working Paper Series No. 489
Working-age Americans work longer hours than adults in other industrialized countries. At the same time, the United States. has one of the least equal income distributions of any rich country. This paper provides a cross-national analysis of the impact of the exceptional U.S. income distribution and labor supply patterns on time available for child caregiving by comparing the income distributions and work hours distributions of seven rich countries. Our analysis shows that Americans tend to work longer hours than Canadians and Western Europeans at both the top and bottom of the income distribution, but the proportional difference is largest at the bottom of the distribution. Americans at the bottom of the income distribution work longer hours than their counterparts in other rich countries but nonetheless achieve a relative standard of living that is below that enjoyed by working-age adults in other countries who hold a comparable position in their national income distributions. U.S. household heads responsible for rearing children are unusually time constrained. Parents in the middle and top part of the U.S. distribution derive an important advantage from devoting so much of their time to paid employment: They receive higher labor incomes and enjoy greater ability to purchase time-saving household services. Lowincome U.S. parents do not derive a comparable advantage from their long hours of work. They work more than parents in other industrial countries who have the same low rank in the income distribution, but their incomes are proportionately further below the median income in their country.