How we divide up household chores and care for family members are fundamental economic issues. In order to understand what our economy produces–and how the spoils are distributed–we need to understand how individuals spend their time. Who is available to work outside the home and for how long, who cares for the next generation, and who cares for the sick are all key questions.
Whenever I have questions about time use, my first step has typically been to look up what Suzanne Bianchi has written recently. I was saddened to hear of her death last week. Suzanne was instrumental in helping to shed light on time use trends. In the early 2000s, the Bureau of Labor Statistics began releasing a new survey, the American Time Use Survey, in no small part due to Suzanne’s work. The UCLA obituary has a nice summary of her contributions to the field:
Throughout her career, Bianchi made significant contributions to the social and population sciences. Her innovative studies with time-use data encouraged widespread use of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ American Time Use Survey and contributed to international data collections on time use. She was principal investigator on a new research approach to studying transfers between parents and children in the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, the premier survey for studying economic inequality in the United States.
We learned a great deal from this data. The New York Times highlighted one of Suzanne’s most important research findings, “that working mothers of the 1990s spent as much time with their children, or more, as stay-at-home mothers of the 1960s did — upended conventional wisdom suggesting that women with careers were shortchanging their children.”
She will be missed.