Natasha V. Pilkauskas

Maternal Employment Stability, Intensity, and Quality: Exploring the Links with Children's School

Research Project Description

Gaps in school readiness explain about half of later disparities in school achievement and children from economically disadvantaged backgrounds start the farthest behind (Duncan & Murnane, 2011). To close gaps in school readiness, we need to better understand what factors produce those gaps. One understudied contributing factor to school readiness is the role of maternal employment, and in particular, employment stability, intensity, and quality. In 1975, 39% of mothers with children under 6 were in the labor force, today that figure is 64% (BLS 2016). Among economically disadvantaged groups the increase in maternal employment has been even greater and these mothers often face unstable, low intensity, or poor quality employment (Kalleberg, 2009). By understanding whether particular types of maternal employment put children at a greater risk of not being ready for school, we can consider how early educational policies and interventions, and resource targeting once children are in school, might mitigate educational disparities.

Using unique employment calendar data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, a longitudinal birth cohort study, I will examine the links between the characteristics of maternal employment during early childhood and gaps in school readiness (literacy, math, and behavioral skills). I will explore three questions: (1) Is maternal employment stability, intensity, and quality between birth and age 5 linked with school readiness (at age 5) and later school outcomes (at ages 9 and 15)? (2) Do the associations vary by developmental timing of the employment (e.g. infancy versus toddlerhood)? And (3) are there differences in the associations by marital status, race/ethnicity, or socio-economic status of the mothers? This research, will shed light on the factors that contribute to gaps in school readiness between advantaged and disadvantaged children, so that we may better craft policies and interventions to close those gaps.

Funding:
Spencer Foundation
(subcontract: Award Letter)

Funding Period: 1/1/2018 to 6/30/2019

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