Some Family Time

Kevin Lewis

May 29, 2022

The Earned Income Tax Credit and Maternal Time Use: More Time Working and Less Time with Kids?
Jacob Bastian & Lance Lochner
Journal of Labor Economics, forthcoming

Parents spend considerable time and resources investing in their children’s development. Given evidence that the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) affects maternal labor supply, we investigate how the maximum available EITC amount affects a broad array of time use activities, focusing on the amount and nature of time spent with children. Using 2003–18 time use data, we find that federal and state EITC expansions increase maternal work time, reducing time devoted to home production, leisure, and time with children. However, almost none of the reduction comes from time devoted to “investment” activities, such as active learning and development activities. 

Learning to Value Girls: Balanced Infant Sex Ratios at Higher Parental Education in the United States, 1969–2018
Emily Rauscher & Haoming Song
Demography, forthcoming

Infant sex ratios that differ from the biological norm provide a measure of gender status inequality that is not susceptible to social desirability bias. Ratios may become less biased with educational expansion through reduced preference for male children. Alternatively, bias could increase with education through more access to sex-selective medical technologies. Using National Vital Statistics data on the population of live births in the United States for 1969–2018, we examine trends in infant sex ratios by parental race/ethnicity, education, and birth parity over five decades. We find son-biased infant sex ratios among Chinese and Asian Indian births that have persisted in recent years, and regressions suggest son-biased ratios among births to Filipino and Japanese mothers with less than a high school education. Infant sex ratios are more balanced at higher levels of maternal education, particularly when both parents are college educated. Results suggest greater equality of gender status with higher education in the United States. 

Genetic causal beliefs and developmental context: Parents’ beliefs predict psychologically controlling approaches to parenting
Tristin Nyman et al.
Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, forthcoming

We examined the association of parents’ genetic causal beliefs and parenting behaviors, hypothesizing a positive association between parents’ genetic causal beliefs and their use of psychological control. Study 1 (N = 394) was a cross-sectional survey and revealed that parents’ genetic essentialism beliefs were positively associated with their self-reported use of harsh psychological control, but only for parents who reported relatively high levels of problem behaviors in their children. Study 2 (N = 293) employed a 4-day longitudinal design and revealed that parents’ genetic causal beliefs positively predicted the use of psychological control, especially on days when they perceived relatively high problem behaviors in children. Overall, the studies demonstrated that parents’ genetic causal beliefs about character positively predicted psychologically controlling and harsh responses to child problem behaviors, which may ultimately be detrimental to child development. 

Prenatal Substance Use Policies And Infant Maltreatment Reports
Johanna Catherine Maclean et al.
Health Affairs, May 2022, Pages 703-712

We studied the effect of state punitive and supportive prenatal substance use policies on reports of infant maltreatment to child protection agencies. Punitive policies criminalize prenatal substance use or define it as child maltreatment, whereas supportive policies provide pregnant women with priority access to substance use disorder treatment programs. Using difference-in-differences methods, we found that total infant maltreatment reports increased by 19.0 percent after punitive policy adoption during the years of our study (2004–18). This growth was driven by a 38.4 percent increase in substantiated reports in which the mother was the alleged perpetrator. There were no changes in unsubstantiated reports after the adoption of punitive policies. We observed no changes in infant maltreatment reports after the adoption of supportive policies. Findings suggest that punitive policies lead to large increases in substantiated infant maltreatment reports, which in turn may lead to child welfare system involvement soon after childbirth in states with these policies. Policy makers should design interventions that emphasize support services and improve well-being for mothers and infants. 

Human brain anatomy reflects separable genetic and environmental components of socioeconomic status
Hyeokmoon Kweon et al.
Science Advances, May 2022

Socioeconomic status (SES) correlates with brain structure, a relation of interest given the long-observed relations of SES to cognitive abilities and health. Yet, major questions remain open, in particular, the pattern of causality that underlies this relation. In an unprecedently large study, here, we assess genetic and environmental contributions to SES differences in neuroanatomy. We first establish robust SES–gray matter relations across a number of brain regions, cortical and subcortical. These regional correlates are parsed into predominantly genetic factors and those potentially due to the environment. We show that genetic effects are stronger in some areas (prefrontal cortex, insula) than others. In areas showing less genetic effect (cerebellum, lateral temporal), environmental factors are likely to be influential. Our results imply a complex interplay of genetic and environmental factors that influence the SES-brain relation and may eventually provide insights relevant to policy. 

Domain specificity of differential susceptibility: Testing an evolutionary theory of temperament in early childhood
Rochelle Hentges, Patrick Davies & Melissa Sturge-Apple
Development and Psychopathology, forthcoming

According to differential susceptibility theory (DST), some children may be more sensitive to both positive and negative features of the environment. However, research has generated a list of widely disparate temperamental traits that may reflect differential susceptibility to the environment. In addition, findings have implicated these temperament × environment interactions in predicting a wide variety of child outcomes. This study uses a novel evolutionary model of temperament to examine whether differential susceptibility operates in a domain-general or domain-specific manner. Using a racially and socioeconomically diverse sample of 243 preschoolers and their parents (56% female; 48% African American), we examined the interactions between maternal and paternal parenting quality and two evolutionary informed temperament profiles (i.e., Hawks and Doves) in predicting changes in teacher-reported conduct problems and depressive symptoms from preschool to first grade. Results suggest that differential susceptibility operates in a domain-specific fashion. Specifically, the “Hawk” temperament was differentially susceptible to maternal parenting in predicting externalizing problems. In contrast, the “Dove” temperament was susceptible to both paternal and maternal parenting quality in predicting changes in depressive symptoms. Findings provide support for an integrative framework that synthesizes DST with an evolutionary, function-based approach to temperament.


from the


A weekly newsletter with free essays from past issues of National Affairs and The Public Interest that shed light on the week's pressing issues.


to your National Affairs subscriber account.

Already a subscriber? Activate your account.


Unlimited access to intelligent essays on the nation’s affairs.

Subscribe to National Affairs.