Childcare for household and non-household children in AHTUS

Hi all,

I have a question about the kinds of childcare activities included in AHTUS and ATUS. Is respondents’ time spent providing care for children outside of the household included in child care categories? (and in the adult care categories?).

I assumed it was for all AHTUS surveys but I just calculated the proportion of adults not living with children under 18 who report spending time on childcare and this proportion drops starting in 2003, which coincides with the ATUS. Before 2003, about 3-6 percent of men not living with children under 18 report some time on childcare but starting in 2003 this drops to <1 percent.

Thank you!


My understanding of your post is that you are looking at data from 1965-present via IPUMA AHTUS, and that you observe a large shift in the share of adult males without children in their household who spend any time on care for children between the pre-ATUS samples and the ATUS beginning in 2003. You are, therefore, inquiring about how childcare for non-household children is coded over time in the AHTUS. Please correct me if that’s wrong.

The pre-2003 AHTUS samples are a series of unique surveys with much less consistency than the 2003-forward ATUS data (see sample descriptions).

Our collaborators at the Centre for Time Use Research at the University of Oxford provide documentation (see the “documentation” link on the MAIN variable description) indicate that in the heritage datasets, care of children from outside the households is included with care of adults (MAIN = 40) and that only care of children from one’s own household are included in the childcare codes (MAIN >= 33 & MAIN <=39).

Because you describe looking at adult men without coresident children, I assume you would need to create a time use variable that measures time spent on adult care with a child under 18 present. If you can provide some information about how you are defining time spent on caring for non-household children, I will be able to look into your question further.

Hi Isabel,

Thank you so much for your help. Your understanding of my question is correct, I am interested in examining if we can create a comparable measure of time spent providing childcare for children outside of the household.

The information you provide is very useful, but I am still puzzled by what I see in the data. For pre-ATUS surveys I identify about 3-6 percent of men who do not live with children under 18 but who report spending time on childcare (using MAIN 33-39 codes). It for the ATUS survey period that this percentage drops (perhaps because MAIN 33-39 are not supposed to include childcare for non household children?). If so, I wonder if the 3-6 percent of men I see in the data reporting childcare but not living with children pre-ATUS is a data error or if it is capturing something else.

I know that using ATUS files I could measure childcare for own household and for non-own non-household children, but I was interested to see if I could extend this measure further back. My guess is that this is not possible if childcare for non-own non-household children is added to the adult care code (MAIN 40).

Thank you!


Thank you for your patience in awaiting a response. I took a look at the 1998 sample data and the 2003 sample data, the harmonization syntax (which shows how the Centre for Time Use Research harmonized the pre-ATUS samples), and the main activities harmonization documentation. My best guess as to what’s occurring is that non-household childcare is included in childcare activities (MAIN codes 33-39) in the 1998 data. In the 2003 ATUS, non-household childcare is separated out into adult care and no longer included in MAIN codes 33-39. My reasoning for this is that I do not see any distinction between (or mention of) non-household children versus household children in the 1998 sample documentation, such as the Family Interaction, Social Capital, and Trends in Time Use 1998-1999 user guide or the main activities harmonization documentation. In 2003, it’s clear in the documentation that non-household childcare is included in adult care. It is not at all clear where it’s included in 1998, which makes me think it is likely included with household childcare in the general childcare codes.

In the 1998 sample, if non-household childcare is included in childcare activities, it makes sense that some share of people without coresident children engaged in childcare activities. Then, in 2003, when those non-household childcare activities were no longer part of the childcare activity codes, it also makes sense that the share of people without coresident children who spend time on (household) childcare would decrease dramatically—they don’t have any household children to spend time with. The remaining <1% of respondents without coresident children who spend some time on household childcare can be attributed to misreporting, inconsistent reporting, coding errors, and so on.

The best strategy to identify time spent on care of non-household children will therefore differ depending on the sample you are using. I can provide some more information about how I might go about that if it would be useful to you.