The prolonged period of workplace flexibility amid the pandemic has given rise to an increased desire among a majority of parents with children younger than 18 to continue working from home full time or part time and is most pronounced among college-educated fathers, a new study shows.
The YouGov survey from the Institute for Family Studies/Wheatley Institution of 2,500 American adults, ages 18-55, conducted May 28 to June 10, shows that 53% of parents with children younger than 18, now prefer working from home either most of the time or half of the time as a result of the pandemic.
Some 65% of college-educated fathers led the pack among parents in endorsing working from home at least half the time or most of the time. Approximately 44% supported working from home most of the time, while 21% support working from home half of the time. Among college-educated mothers, some 57% endorse the shift.
Among non-college educated fathers, 45% supported working from home most or half of the time.
According to the researchers, Wendy Wang and Jenet Erickson, the shifting attitudes among parents to remote work is partly due to the increased options parents have discovered in managing childcare.
“Some of this shift in desire reflects the fact that parents now see more options for possible ways to arrange child care. In the same survey, parents rated ‘both parents work flexible hours and share child care’ as the best child care arrangement for families with kids ages 0-4,” the researchers noted.
Mothers were more likely than fathers to prefer that option while having a stay-at-home parent remains popular among parents as well. Nearly 30% of mothers and fathers believe that “one parent stays home full time to care for the child” is the best arrangement for families with children younger than 5.
The data from the survey shows that contrary to national childcare policy proposals supporting more center-based childcare, most parents prefer taking care of their children themselves if their work arrangement allows it.
“The Biden administration’s American Families Plan has brought the child care issue to the front and center of the debate, operating from the implicit assumption that lack of a federally funded child care is keeping mothers, in particular, from full-time work. There is no doubt that the cost of child care is high in the U.S. and helping families to better afford the cost could benefit many parents.
"But it is also important to know whether center-based child care is what most parents really want. Among families with children ages 0-4, who are most likely to be impacted by child care policy decisions, full-time center-based care is only preferred by 14% of parents, according to the new IFS/Wheatley survey,” the researchers explained. “Instead, a plurality of parents said they would prefer arrangements that allow them to care for their own children at home.”
The flexibility in work arrangements created by the coronavirus pandemic shows that this is beneficial and needed in the long term, particularly for parents.
“No one work situation and child care model fits all parents,” Wang and Erickson noted.
“What parents desire is access to work and child care situations that are responsive to their different situations and family needs. … The results from this IFS/Wheatley Institution survey suggest that both mothers and fathers want more opportunities to choose where and when they work so they can provide the kind of care situation they want for their children. The COVID-19 pandemic may prove an opportunity to reset how parents decide between those options — both now and for the long-term,” they added.