EBRI Issue Brief

The Distribution of Family Oriented Benefits

Oct 1, 1992 19  pages


  • In 1988, more than one-half of all mothers with children under age 1 were in the paid labor force, up from 31 percent in 1976. Between 1960 and 1989, the labor force participation rate of married women with children under age 6 rose from 19 percent to 58 percent, while the rate for mothers with children aged 6–17 rose from 39 percent to 73 percent. About 70 percent of employed mothers, and more than 66 percent of mothers of preschool-age children, worked full-time in 1985.
  • The availability of child care assistance and flexible work options to working mothers is related to occupation, income level, educational level, labor force status, and industry, according to the National Child Care Survey.
  • The most common child care or flexible work option was part–time work (41 percent). Nearly 30 percent of surveyed mothers could choose to take unpaid leave, and slightly more than 20 percent could choose flextime.
  • Women in professional occupations were most likely to be offered at least one child care benefit, while women in service, production, and agricultural occupations were least likely to receive child care benefits. Full-time employees were more likely to have access to unpaid leave than women working 20–34 hours or those working fewer than 20 hours.
  • Utilization of on-site child care was greatest among dual earner families, workers in service producing industries, and workers in service, production, professional, and managerial occupations. Dual earner families, families with higher educational attainment, and higher income workers were most likely to use pretax spending accounts.
  • There are several possible approaches to overcoming some of the differences among employees in the distribution of child care assistance. Options include providing employers with tax incentives for only those benefits targeted at lower income workers, privatizing the distribution of benefits by eliminating the current preferential tax treatment of pretax spending accounts and on-site child care programs, and mandating the employer provision of child care benefits.