- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 22, 2002


Some parents turned to relatives; others brought their children to work or arranged for job sharing with another parent. Mothers like Jayne Williams quit office jobs to start businesses from home.

New 2000 census data for 20 states show no abatement in the decades-old trend of more children growing up with all the parents in their household working.

But a wide range of socioeconomic forces during the 1990s allowed many of those working parents to become more involved in child rearing, rather than relying on child care centers and baby sitters. Some worked out more flexible schedules with their employers, while others decided to begin Internet businesses at home.

The 1996 welfare law, which nudged more people from public assistance rolls into the work force, also played a part in the 1990s trend, analysts say.

"Flexibility was important," said Mrs. Williams, who quit a six-day-a-week office job in marketing when her daughter reached her first birthday. She now sells home care products out of her house in Naugutuck, Conn., while studying to become a teacher.

"I didn't want someone else raising my children," said Mrs. Williams, who had continued working after her son, now a 7-year-old, was born.

Census 2000 data released yesterday for nine states detail the number of children under age 6 with all parents either working or looking for a job. However, the broad category did not distinguish between single- and two-parent families, or whether the jobs were full or part time.

With yesterday's release, 22 states now have data from the 2000 census "long form," which also covered topics such as education and income.

The percentage of the children who grew up with all parents at some stage of employment increased in each of the 22 states except Nevada and California. Demographers suggest that may in part be due to the increase in those two states in Hispanic families many of whom have mothers at home full time to care for children or may not be able to afford child care.

Among states released yesterday:

•In Connecticut, nearly 62 percent of children under 6 had all parents working, up from 56 percent in 1990. The state is home to many affluent suburbs of New York City.

•Nearly 70 percent of Nebraska children had parents in the labor force. Jerry Deichert, director of the Center for Public Affairs Research at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, said the struggling farm economy may be forcing both parents to work and provide an explanation for such high percentages in Nebraska and some other rural states.

Such statistics typically renew debate over the best way to raise children and government's role in helping to pay for child care costs.

"It really depends on the quality of the child care you are talking about" when debating the merits of stay-at-home parenting versus child care centers, said William O'Hare, a researcher with the children's advocacy group, the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

A separate U.S. Census Bureau survey completed last year suggests that new mothers are waiting longer before returning to work. The survey found that 55 percent of women who gave birth between July 1999 and June 2000 returned to work during the first year of their child's life, down from 59 percent in 1998. The declines came mainly among white women, and women with higher levels of education.

The detailed 2000 census data released yesterday come from the 53-question census "long form" distributed to one of six American households. Other states receiving data yesterday were Kansas, Oklahoma, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

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