skip to main content

Listen

Read

Watch

Schedules

Programs

Events

Give

Account

Donation Heart Ribbon

Parents Changing Their Lives To Get Kids To College

Audio

Aired 4/6/10

A new study from UC San Diego suggests that increased competition for college admission has lead to increased competition among college-educated parents and more time spent with their children on college preparation.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH (Host): I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. This is the month of reckoning for many college hopefuls. Most college admission decisions and financial aid awards letters arrive in the month of April. But even though the actual admission process has taken only a few short months, preparation for college began years earlier for some kids. In fact, a new study from UC San Diego finds that children who come from wealthier homes where both parents have graduated from college have likely been prepped from early childhood. This hands-on involvement in the future education of their kids has made some parents a lot more involved in child-rearing, and seems to have produced some unintended consequences. I’d like to welcome my guests. First, Valerie Ramey is professor in the Department of Economics at UC San Diego, and co-author of “The Rug Rat Race.” And welcome, Valerie. Thanks for coming.

VALERIE RAMEY (Professor, Department of Economics, University of California San Diego): Thank you. Good morning.

CAVANAUGH: And David Peters is a licensed marriage and family psychotherapist, practicing here in San Diego. Welcome back, David.

DAVID PETERS (Marriage & Family Psychotherapist): Good to see you again, Maureen.

CAVANAUGH: We’d like to invite our listeners to join the conversation. How much time do you put in trying to prepare your child for good grades and college? Give us a call with your questions and your comments, 1-888-895-5727. And, Valerie, the results of the study seem to be a little strange coming from an economic survey, from an economic perspective. I wonder if you could tell us what was your hypothesis when you went into this study.

RAMEY: Well, there were two parts of it. First of all, both my husband and I—my husband is my co-author on this—had observed this in our lives, that many parents were spending what seemed to be very large amounts of time on their children. After observing that, I had been doing work on time use. Economists have become increasingly interested in time allocation and how it’s allocated between market work and what we call home production. And something that I started noticing was that there seemed to be an increase in the amount of time that parents spent on children even though family size was decreasing. So we started looking at this together and found that, in fact, despite the fact that there was a decrease, slight decrease, in time spent on childcare from the 1960s to the late 1980s, suddenly it started increasing dramatically over about a ten-year period from the early 1990s to the early 2000s, and then leveled off at a new higher level. So we were quite interested in this trend—it represents a big reallocation of resources in the U.S. economy—and then started going through possible explanations.

CAVANAUGH: So the reason that you as an economy professor are interested in this is because, would it be fair to say, time is money?

RAMEY: Time is money, absolutely.

CAVANAUGH: Okay, well, okay, so you find out there’s this huge allocation of time spent with children.

RAMEY: Umm-hmm.

CAVANAUGH: Big change in – So where do you go from there? How do you find out why people – who is spending all this time with their kids and why they’re doing it.

RAMEY: Okay. So when we looked, we found the increase across all groups but the increase was much more for college educated parents. So the most dramatic increase was for college educated mothers. They increased the amount of time they spent on children by about 9 hours per week. That’s a quarter of a full time job, is just the increase by itself. Mothers who don’t have a college degree who had less also increased the amount of time but only by about 4 to four and a half hours. Fathers also increased their time. Again, college educated fathers increased the amount of time they spent more than less educated fathers. Now for fathers, the increase was less than for mothers just because, on average, fathers spend less time on childcare.

CAVANAUGH: And, okay, so perhaps they are enjoying, you know, videogames together or perhaps they’re all getting out and going on picnics. Where do you make that connection between…

RAMEY: Okay…

CAVANAUGH: …this amount of increased time and prepping kids, getting really involved in their future education?

RAMEY: Okay, so when we looked at the subcategories of childcare, we found that some of the most important increases were in chauffeuring children, which means taking them places, waiting for them, and then also organizing and attending their activities, standing on the sideline of the soccer field, taking them to their practice, attending their games and those sorts of things. We also found some increase in the amount of time spent on education, say helping them do homework, say taking them to after school prep classes, those sorts of things.

CAVANAUGH: I see. So that’s where you begin making that connection.

RAMEY: Exactly.

CAVANAUGH: Let me ask you, David. Are you surprised by these findings in Valerie’s work?

PETERS: Actually, not at all. I hear the stress complaints from families who come in for various challenges when they’re looking for family therapy. I’ve noticed in the last 10 years a definite increase in families saying they’ve got no time, they’re heavily stressed, and the mothers in particular say all I do is drive kids around. I rush here or rush there. And the young people themselves don’t seem to be enjoying this very well either. And so it ends up a significant stressor in the family that I have to consider when trying to help a husband and wife work on their marriage or in trying to help, you know, one of the youngsters recover from depression or anxiety disorder. The family just has a much more increased amount of stress, just rushing the kids, trying to take care of things and the extracurricular activities and studies.

CAVANAUGH: I’m speaking with David Peters. He’s a licensed marriage and family psychotherapist here in San Diego. And Valerie Ramey is also my guest. She’s professor in the Department of Economics, at UC San Diego and co-author of “The Rug Rat Race.” And we’re taking your calls about how much time or if you perhaps have increased the time you’ve been spending chauffeuring your kids or preparing them for good grades in college, 1-888-895-5727. So, Valerie, you have this information about – you have the raw data. How – Did you start going out and interviewing people as to exactly what their motivation was in spending more time on the sidelines and in helping kids with homework and so forth?

RAMEY: You know, in fact, we didn’t do that. We used a series of time use studies…

CAVANAUGH: Ah…

RAMEY: …that were conducted by – originally by private researchers and are now conducted by the government where they asked if – they asked people for the day before, what were you doing at nine o’clock? What were you doing at 9:15? So it’s considered one of the most accurate ways to measure time use. And it was that – those data that we used. We pieced together 13 time use studies from 1965 to 2008, and that’s where we saw the increase. Now since we wrote the first versions of this study, others have done these sorts of things where they interview parents and, for example, Hilary Levey, in her Ph.D. dissertation at Princeton, went out and interviewed 175 families and sort of followed them around to all their activities and found that the families were saying exactly what we were saying, that they felt that it was important to get into this competition of life which started with having extracurricular activities that you could put on the college application. Therefore, get into the good college and into the good job and have the good life.

CAVANAUGH: Now one of the things that is really, really very interesting in the data that you’ve collected is the fact that this does seem to trend along certain economic lines, certain lines of education. Did you come to any conclusion why that would be? Or how strong that data is?

RAMEY: So the data’s quite strong so those differences are statistically significantly different. The way we argue in the paper, in our theoretical model, is that educated parents have what we call a comparative advantage in preparing their kids for college. They sort of know what needs to be done. They know how to make that college application look good. So an hour that an educated parent puts into the children will probably yield more than an hour that a less-educated parent puts in because they just don’t have that background. So to the extent that this is investment in children, we may see further inequality in the future because the children of the college-educated parents may be getting much more investment in them than the children of the less-educated parents and if that investment is productive, that’s going to show up in incomes in the future.

CAVANAUGH: I understand your point. David, we – Valerie’s research, we’ve been talking about roughly the past 20 years, and I want to ask you both, starting with David, a little bit about parenting techniques and perhaps how they’ve changed over a longer period of time, maybe the last 50 years or so.

PETERS: Well, parenting techniques in terms of discipline have, I’d say, changed gradually over time in terms of it’s less acceptable to hit your kids, this sort of thing, or spanking them, although some still do. But I think in terms of Valerie’s research, what we’re seeing is – the change I see is parents are taking a much greater responsibility for their child’s longterm future. Rather than just set up the home and take care of the home life and let your kids go to school and enjoy themselves and move forward, the parents seem to be, from a standpoint of anxiety, thinking that they have to push their kid through school to the best grade level. A 4.0 is no longer acceptable anymore; you have to get a 4.5 grade point average to get into the major name university. And with the parents’ emphasis on this, it changes the relationship between parent and child. It’s no longer just hanging out and having fun, enjoying family time together. There’s a certain pressure to perform and a pressure to do well. This doesn’t always help family relationships because the self-esteem of, you know, a teenager is often powerfully impacted by the parents’ ability to communicate that you’re doing wonderful and I love you and I just think you’re wonderful as you are.

CAVANAUGH: You know, Valerie, I suppose it’s reasonable to assume that parents who went to college always wanted their children to follow in their footsteps. Do you see anything, do you postulate anything that may have changed this attitude because – making things so much more competitive?

RAMEY: Yes, there’ve been several forces that lead to the increase in competition. So the first that we identify is a shortage of slots at the, quote, unquote, the good colleges relative to the demand for those colleges. So because of the baby-boomlet and, on top of that, an increased propensity to go to college, the demand is much higher relative to the supply of the slots at the good colleges because they don’t increase quite as much. A second reason that parents really worry is that since 1980, the returns to going to college have skyrocketed. So if you compare the average wage of somebody who’s not gone to college to the average wage of somebody who’s gone to college, that differential started increasing in the early 1980s—in fact, I’ve done previous research on this—and has continued to increase up through the present. So that’s why parents feel so much anxiety, that they feel that their child will be really put at a disadvantage in the future if they don’t go to college.

CAVANAUGH: I understand your point now because people say, you know, before that time…

RAMEY: Right.

CAVANAUGH: …when unions were strong in America, people could go to high school and make a decent living for their family but since the 1980s your research finds that the disparity has just, as you say, skyrocketed.

RAMEY: Exactly.

CAVANAUGH: We are taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. And let’s take a call from Catalina in North Park. Good morning and welcome to These Days.

CATALINA (Caller, North Park): Good morning. Thank you for taking my call.

CAVANAUGH: You’re welcome.

CATALINA: I just wanted to comment. Actually, I’m a child of the eighties and my mother actually came to this country as an immigrant. And I started having kids really early. I had my first child when I was 15. He’s about to turn 13 now. And we really, me and my husband, we really instill going to college because even though I had a kid at 15, I still continued going to college. Excuse me. I finished up my BA already in business management. So that’s something that I know that he needs to have on his application. But not only that, I lost my job last summer and I took advantage of that time to really focus all my 40 hours a week as a job here at home and I really felt like that really helped out with the conditions, you know…

CAVANAUGH: Sure.

CATALINA: …we had due to the economic times.

CAVANAUGH: Well, Catalina, let me ask you a question. Do you find other people, your friends, are also on that same track, trying to get their kids to go to college, to the best college they possibly can?

CATALINA: I do, and I actually am a Girl Scout troop leader and they’re fifth graders, and right now I’m telling them you guys need to volunteer now. We need to put our hours on our applications now because it’s going to look good later even starting right now at such a young age.

CAVANAUGH: Catalina, thank you. Thank you also for giving us a textbook example of what Valerie and David have been saying to us. We do have to take a short break. When we return, we will continue talking about what Valerie Ramey calls “The Rug Rat Race,” that push to get kids into college and how much time families are actually spending on that. We’ll be taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. You’re listening to These Days on KPBS.

CAVANAUGH: Welcome back. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. My guests are Valerie Ramey. She’s professor in the Department of Economics, at UC San Diego, and co-author of “The Rug Rat Race.” And my other guest is David Peters. He’s a licensed marriage and family psychotherapist, practicing right here in San Diego. And we’re taking your calls on whether or not you’re putting in more time preparing your child for good grades and college. How much time is that taking from you and your family? 1-888-895-5727 is the number to call if you’d like to join the conversation. Valerie, how does where you live come into play? In other words, is there a difference in the United States between rural areas versus urban areas?

RAMEY: Yes, there seems to be a difference particularly along the coasts versus the Midwest, so from what we’ve seen parents are much more relaxed in the Midwest whereas New England has always been very high pressure but according to a number of studies that’s also spread to the southern coast and in California is feeling more high pressure.

CAVANAUGH: And how about among nations? Just contrasting…

RAMEY: Okay.

CAVANAUGH: …perhaps the U.S. and Canada.

RAMEY: Okay, so the U.S. and Canada was one of the key comparisons in our study. Canada is very similar to the U.S. in many respects. Most people speak English, they read the same books we do, so we thought it was a nice laboratory to see if it was just a sociological fad. But one way that Canada differs is that they do not have this hierarchy of colleges and this ultra-competition. In Canada, most people go to the college in their province. Only grades matter. Extracurricular activities have no affect on your ability to get in. There’s no SAT test, there are no AP classes. So we looked at Canada versus the U.S. and what we found is that among college educated parents in Canada, there was no change in the time spent on child care from the 1980s to the present, which is the period that we found for there, whereas in the U.S., the college educated mothers were increasing the hours by 9 hours a week. College educated fathers by four to five hours a week. So we see that as more evidence that it’s this ultra-competition to get into the good colleges in the U.S. that’s leading to this.

CAVANAUGH: Now, David, you know, most of the time when you hear about people spending more time with their kids, it’s reviewed as a good thing. But in this aspect, what we’re talking about now, there are, as I mentioned in the very opening, some unintended consequences. And I think that you’ve run up against that in speaking with people in your practice.

PETERS: Most definitely. It’s very common when a couple comes in for marriage counseling that I find, you know, I give them a homework assignment and they come back next week and they haven’t even thought about it for a moment because they’re so busy. And I’m particularly concerned that the research is showing that free time for women has dropped by almost 10 hours per week. If you think about that, 10 hours per week of your free time missing in the last couple of years, it’s a dramatic decrease in the amount of time you have just to take care of yourself. So a couple comes in and chief complaint is intimacy and romance, and you have a woman here who’s completely exhausted and feels worn out and it’s very, very difficult to challenge a couple to make time to take care of themselves and give them an open space in which to build some romance. So here we have the center of the family being really undermined by the need to push the next generation forward in the economy. And this reduces the enjoyment, the sense of love, the sense of belongingness in the family. Husbands don’t understand why the wife’s exhausted because he thinks everything’s fine. He usually is – as the statistics are showing he’s not increasing the amount of time as much as the mothers are. And so you end up with a lot of conflict, a feeling of alienation. And the kids don’t return a sense of love and gratitude to the parents because they really only experience pressure.

CAVANAUGH: Let’s take a call. We are taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727 or if you’d like to post your comment online, that is KPBS.org/thesedays. Albert is calling us from Old Town. Good morning, Albert. Welcome to These Days.

ALBERT (Caller, Old Town): Thank you. I think we experience this, too, in our family. I have a family of three daughters and one goes to High Tech and one we’re moving to a different private school so that we can get them ready. And we have a friend in New Jersey who just happened to have her daughter graduate this year and they sent out ten applications to colleges, and they live on the east coast, and she was accepted at all ten. Well, that’s adding pressure to my kids. Even though we’re just good friends, I know that my girls are feeling the pressure.

CAVANAUGH: And – and…

ALBERT: I mean, if we just – I’m sorry.

CAVANAUGH: Albert, I just wanted to ask, are you doing something? Do you want to lessen that pressure on your kids or do you think that’s a good thing for them to feel that competition?

ALBERT: I want them to appreciate what they need to do to go to college but I don’t want them to be so stressed out that they just check out of the whole process.

CAVANAUGH: Right. Is there a way, David, for Albert to try to help his kids strike that balance?

PETERS: Well, it really depends upon, you know, your determination to influence them, I think. I think parents can teach their kids to relax some. I mean, there’s going to be pressure from their fellow students but I think parents really should take the lead when they see the stress reaching a point where it’s undermining the family fun and undermining your teenagers’ ability to enjoy themselves and undermine their self esteem. I don’t think we find significant research saying that if you go to San Diego State, you’re at a significant economic disadvantage 10 years down the road. But young people do experience, oh, no, I’ve got to go to, you know, one of the Ivy League schools, I’ve got to go to Stanford, I’ve got to go to UCSD. And there’s just not enough room for everybody at the top schools. And so I think with parents teaching their kids to relax and pushing the kids to take time out to have fun, I think they can be a very significant influence on them and allow their youngster to really enjoy themselves because if they don’t, some of these students who are under such pressure, when they do go on to university, they’re not prepared for that kind of life. They’re already overwhelmed and they experience now I have to get the top grades in my university, and they fail to enjoy themselves at a university level.

CAVANAUGH: Right.

PETERS: So we’re really undermining their ability to enjoy their humanity. I mean, what’s more important in life here?

CAVANAUGH: Exactly. Let me take some calls. There are a lot of people who want to join the conversation. Michelle is calling us from San Diego. Good morning, Michelle. Welcome to These Days.

MICHELLE (Caller, San Diego): Yes, good morning. Good morning. Good topic. And I just had a comment. My husband and I have a 14-year-old graduating from eighth grade and a almost 12-year-old graduating from fifth grade. And we – my husband and I have taken the stance that, you know, since we had to put ourselves through college independently and then later, as an adult, older adult, I completed a Master’s degree in marriage and family therapy just two years ago, and my husband’s always kind of worked full time. I’ve gone in and out of working full time, part time, and then taken some time off. But we’ve always fostered a sense of independence with our children in being able to kind of like, you know, learn how to take responsibility for their own work, not pushing them too hard but also sitting down with their teachers, going to all the teacher conferences and seeing what we can do to help foster, you know, a love of learning in our children from an early age. We did remove them out of the public school system about five years ago and put them in a charter school…

CAVANAUGH: Umm-hmm.

MICHELLE: …that I think really helped them. It was a small, felt like a little small, private school…

CAVANAUGH: Umm-hmm.

MICHELLE: …although it wasn’t. It was run off public funds but it really helped them to learn according to their particular learning style and this past semester we had to remove them out of the charter school, put them back in a public school system which was like a culture shock to them. However, a lot of the way that the things they learned has served them very well. They’ve actually excelled to the top of their class. My daughter’s now being considered for honors in three different subjects.

CAVANAUGH: Well, congratulations, Michelle. Thank you so much for your call. Let’s go to Richard in Vista. Good morning, Richard, and welcome to These Days.

RICHARD (Caller, Vista): Good morning. Yeah, I’m one of those – my wife and I are, you know, educated people like you were talking about, invested a whole lot of time in our kids who are now 22 and 19. And I just wanted to kind of disagree a little bit with the perspective, especially of the economist that this is somehow a financial investment. I think that’s a narrow way to look at the world. We’ve invested a huge amount of time in our children and it really had nothing to do with a financial payoff either for them or for us. It was – it had to do with just trying to raise, you know, well rounded kids who are fulfilled, whose – who, you know, get through their teenage years without being in any particular kind of trouble, avoiding all the pitfalls of life and growing up to be happy and fulfilled adults. And…

CAVANAUGH: Richard.

RICHARD: …that was our motivation and also on the grades, you know, not all of us are trying to get – for our kids to get straight As. There wasn’t that kind of pressure. You know, we encouraged our kids to play sports and have a rounded – have a good social life and enjoy themselves and we were fine with B and B+ grades.

CAVANAUGH: I’d like to let Valerie respond. What about this kind of thing. I’m spending time with my kids because I love them and I want them to be – have good lives, not necessarily get into a great college.

RAMEY: Oh, I agree completely that that’s certainly part of the motivation. Economists only focus on the monetary because that’s easier to measure. But, in fact, in our paper we talk about sort of psychic value of investing more in your children to have well-rounded children, exactly, as he said. The point that we make is that this is productive up to a point but then parents seem to be pushed beyond this in some part by this sort of rivalry for the college, and that goes into the points that David makes, that you can go overboard on this sort of thing and, in fact, make the whole family worse off.

CAVANAUGH: Because the trend in the numbers that you’ve found…

RAMEY: Right, are just huge.

CAVANAUGH: …are really telling you something. It’s not just sort of people automatically wanting to spend more time with their kids.

RAMEY: Right.

CAVANAUGH: I understand. I want to follow up on something that you said, David, and that is about the idea that it’s not just going to college but it’s going to a prestigious college that motivates a lot of what I refer to as upscale parents to just put in so much time with their kids. What’s wrong with going to a state college?

PETERS: Well, my graduate degree is from San Diego State…

CAVANAUGH: There you go.

PETERS: …and I’m very comfortable with my career and I really do think that, you know, maybe in the first year after school it might make a difference what university you come from but ten years down the line I think it makes less and less difference in terms of your happiness in life. But I do see – I’ve had teenagers in my office say if I end up at a state school, I’m just going to die. And I’m stunned by that. I want to, you know, take down my diploma off my wall. I go, oh, I’m ashamed of this now. And I challenge them on this. I say, are you sure? You know, what’s the pressure from? And they really have come to a sense that you must come from the great university and I can’t say this for certain but I get a sense that a lot of this comes from the parents. There’s a certain narcissistic value and payoff in getting your kid to the big name university because you look good among your own peers then if your kids are going to the big name university and that undermines everybody’s happiness.

CAVANAUGH: So, Valerie, as you say, it’s not just the education, it’s the cachet, it’s the earning potential.

RAMEY: Right. Or just, as you say, the cachet. I mean, you know, many women will go to a big name university, to a career for a while, and then decide to stay home with their children but they still have that cachet even though they’re not necessarily earning from that prestigious university.

CAVANAUGH: Let’s take another call. Nancy is calling us from Carlsbad. Good morning, Nancy. Welcome to These Days.

NANCY (Caller, Carlsbad): Good morning. I actually have to make my call very quickly because I’m a college professor and I’m starting my class now.

CAVANAUGH: Okay.

NANCY: And I just now opened the question up to my students. But the reason I was calling is to let you know that there’s another part of this, it’s our crazy lives. We’re older parents. Both my husband and I have post-graduate degrees. And we spend a lot of time with our kids. But the whole rat race is not just about college. It used to be that kids would just go out and play in the neighborhood and that’s no longer considered a safe thing to do. So in order for our kids to get exercise, we’ve got to shuffle them around to the soccer and to the dance classes, etcetera, more so than we did, say, 15, 20 years ago.

CAVANAUGH: Right, right. Nancy, let me have David follow up on that.

PETERS: Yeah, I completely agree with her point and this is where things get really, really crazy. Our neighborhoods are no longer set up for young people to walk out the front door and go have fun and come back in three or four hours in time for dinner. And there’s this notion that our neighborhoods are no longer safe like they were when we were kids. In spite of the fact, as we’ve reviewed on this program before, that the instance of violent crime in our society has dropped dramatically over the last 40 years but people have the notion that you can’t just let your kid go out and play. And you can’t even let your teenager go out and have fun on your own; they have to be carted to something that is safe and healthy for them. And this is always dependent upon the parents to provide transportation until the young person has their own vehicle and then it’s dependent upon the parents to provide that vehicle, and this adds significant stress. And there’s a sense that if it’s not an organized activity, then it’s not healthy for the young person and that’s exactly to the contrary of reality for someone who’s a small child, five, six and seven up through their teen years, to be able to entertain yourself, to find your own enjoyment, is a critical task, and I think it’s going to have a dramatic effect on the future of our society because we have an entire generation of people who can’t just find their own fun. They have to be in something organized with a rules system and you have to pay money to get into it and buy the costume and the equipment to go there. We’re not able to just relax and be.

CAVANAUGH: Let’s take another call. Teresa is calling us from Paradise Hill (sic). Good morning, Teresa. Welcome to These Days.

TERESA (Caller, Paradise Hills): Good morning. I just had a comment or something that I’ve noticed. I just had two boys graduate from Point Loma High School, and I noticed a lot of the parents – They were in – my kids were in band. And I just noticed there were so many parents that pushed their kids to get into these colleges, and they pushed them to a point where after – when the kids did get into college, their freshman year they dropped out, they couldn’t take the pressure, you know, and they weren’t motivated in the first place to get in there except for the motivation of their parents.

CAVANAUGH: Right, it didn’t come from them.

TERESA: It didn’t come from them and they ended up dropping out and disappointing their parents and it was a lot of pressure on them, you know. It just doesn’t seem right. I mean…

CAVANAUGH: Valerie – Thank you. I want – somebody’s whistling there, kind of distracting. What do we know about that, David? About people, younger kids, you know, being pushed basically over the edge into freshman year in college and then not being able to take it?

PETERS: Well, I really couldn’t speak to the broad statistics on that in terms of if that’s a trend across the country because I work in very small populations of one and two at a time. But I have found in my office some cases of that, and heard from parents that their young person just stalls out in their freshman year. They’re overwhelmed because they just need time and a break. And some rebel at that point and say, I’m not going to college. I’m going to take a year and go travel…

CAVANAUGH: Right.

PETERS: …go goof off because they just need a breather to find themselves. And I think it’s much more important for a young person to discover enjoyment of life and discover a purpose in life rather than be rushed. If a parent’s pushing your young person into a big name university as fast and hard as possible, that young person doesn’t develop a sense of why am I here, their purpose in life. And the purpose is much more important than the intensity or during – or the success that you have.

CAVANAUGH: And, Valerie Ramey, as co-author of “The Rug Rat Race,” I know that you found in your own life a sort of backing off after a while. Tell us about that.

RAMEY: Yes, so we were firmly entrenched in “The Rug Rat Race” initially. Our son did soccer, football, all sorts of things, and then our daughter started doing softball and equestrian. And I certainly felt caught up in this race because all the neighbors talked about how difficult it was to get into college. Well, finally my very sane husband and children sat me down, they said, we don’t like all of this activity. And I – and they said, you know, we think that you like doing your research more rather than running around to all these things. So I agreed to back off, and it was the best thing because our children developed passions on their own. We took them to a few things. And they learned how to organize their time, they learned how to organize other people in youth groups and things like that. And they’re turning out great.

CAVANAUGH: Well, happy ending. Thank you both so much. I really do appreciate it. Valerie Ramey is professor in the Department of Economics, at UC San Diego, co-author of “The Rug Rat Race.” And David Peters, a licensed marriage and family psychotherapist, practicing here in San Diego. Thank you both.

RAMEY: Thank you.

PETERS: Thanks, Maureen.

CAVANAUGH: And I want everyone to know that you can tune in to Morning Edition tomorrow right here on KPBS to hear a feature report on this study and how some local families fit into that research. That’s tomorrow morning on Morning Edition. Now coming up, how much water has this El Nino winter brought California? That’s as These Days continues here on KPBS.

Comments

Avatar for user 'borders92109'

borders92109 | April 6, 2010 at 9:31 a.m. ― 4 years, 3 months ago

This may be a little beyond the scope of this discussion, but is there any evidence that kids who go to elite universities go on to have significantly higher earning potential than kids who go to more average universities?

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'PetersMFT'

PetersMFT | April 6, 2010 at 10:15 a.m. ― 4 years, 3 months ago

I'm not an expert in the area, but from my understanding the benefit diminishes substantially over time. In the first few years, one may experience a career benefit. But after that, it's very dependent upon ones natural talent and discipline. And we definitively know from research that moving from a middle class income to an upper income provides no benefit in terms of satisfaction in life. The saying, "money doesn't buy happiness" is reflected in actual fact.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'Viktor'

Viktor | April 6, 2010 at 11:58 a.m. ― 4 years, 3 months ago

In response to the last 10 minutes of the program (all I was able to hear today): My view is that in San Diego the children's safety is not the big issue that it was years ago. Fortunately, the safety situation has become much better over the years; yes, some problem areas still exist.

However, I feel the main reason why children are to be driven to activities originates in the way we adults have chosen to live and established the priorities. Suburban sprawl, extensive useage of land, horizontal expansion, overdimensioned roads, wide streets in residential neighborhoods (potentially dangerous for any pedestrian crossing), disregard and lack of working public transportation in the suburbs, no bike paths except those focussed on recreation. Eager to follow new trends and new fads, parents choose driving their children to organized leisure time activities. World-wide, anyone would need transportation as no-one has an ice-hockey ring next door. Because of choice, the children have to be driven, they cant get there on own. Stringent schedules, tough practices, military-like, are accepted by most as educational experience. Activities happen almost daily, have become the meaning of the day; the scheduled forced upon the child and parent. Neighborhood baseball or soccer games, biking or whatever kids can follow according to their own time, home-work situation and parent's availability.

Most of the children activities are pre-packaged, competitive, time-consuming, individualistic (transportation related), mass-orientated (the contents); the wrapping is very important (uniform, snack bars, cheer leaders, meetings, stuff that costs money and time and is not essential to the real thing; made by and for parents). Fun in a bubble.

This all is not really bad; its just the way it is, many parents love it and should not complain. They feel engaged, connected, chat with fellow parents, they feel responsibility, they conceive driving the kids around is quality time. To some extend they are right, they don't know any other way, and there is not much alternative except becoming an odd outsider.

The recent recession may have created an awakening, sense of unsustainability. Growing public's awareness of energy cost, emission, pollution, acknowledgement that studying can be at time no-nonsense, but being stalled on freeways is not fun either.

Parents may consider what is really to the child's benefit: More time for homework and neighborhood sports and playing, less time for organized activities and on the road. I sense a certain shift in priorities since a few years, less focus on wrapping, more on contents. Yet it will take time, stamina and resources to change direction effectively. It will happen, I am an optimist!

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'The0ne'

The0ne | April 6, 2010 at 1:23 p.m. ― 4 years, 3 months ago

@borders, Peters

BBC did a piece on this last night about the pursuit of happiness. The conclusion was that money does not equate to one being happy at all. What was interesting was the fact that one's view of happiness is related to one's view of his/her own worth/wealth compared to other people.

I wouldn't stress my kids to do better to earn more money with or without these studies. Sastifaction and happiness does not depend on money alone. Someone like me would be perfectly fine living on a ranch or a beachhouse and just lazy-ing the day away (readign books that is).

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'ChelseaSharpe'

ChelseaSharpe | April 6, 2010 at 3:54 p.m. ― 4 years, 3 months ago

I strictly recommend not to hold back until you get big sum of cash to order all you need! You should just take the loans or just short term loan and feel yourself free

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'dialyn'

dialyn | April 7, 2010 at 6:40 a.m. ― 4 years, 3 months ago

I don't think being physically present is the same as spending time with your children. I see parents with phones in their ears and chatting with unknown people who are clearly more fascinating to them then the children they have in tow. I've seen children desperately trying to get the attention of oblivious parents who stare out into space while the chatter in the head overrides everything else. First thing a good parent could do: get off the electronic addiction and pay attention to your child. Dragging them event to event, to activity to activity is not good parenting. It's a shame, a substitute for really spending time with them. If your only interest is keeping your head stuck to an electronic device, for heaven's sake, get a virtual child instead of ignoring a physical one.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'JudyBecker'

JudyBecker | April 7, 2010 at 10:11 a.m. ― 4 years, 3 months ago

Thank you for your report. I wanted to comment that after the busy lives we and our children live during childhood and through high school in order to get them into college, their college life becomes overwhelming in itself. As soon as they graduate, they are thrust into a stressful work environment that requires that it become their first priority if they are to compete in the working world, not to mention the stress they carry to pay off the burden of their debt, followed by marraige and children and the cycle begins again.

Those who are left behind our our elders, living uneventful lives alone or in retirement homes. I would like to see KPBS make a request to it's listeners to come up with ideas for useful projects our elderly could embrace to help fill their idle time and help their lonely lives to feel meaningful; a great idea that would give them something to do to make a positive difference in their lives and in the lives of others.

( | suggest removal )