A ESSEX University study which has spanned 54 years has shown how a big disparity between mothers who went to university and those who didn't. 

Using data from the United Kingdom Time-Use Surveys (UKTUS), the study examined how more than 4,500 parents spent their time between 1961 and 2015, the most recent dataset.

One of the main findings of this study, was that starting in the 1980s, a growing disparity between mothers who went to university and those who did not emerged.

In 1961 there was no such gap, but by 2015 university-educated mothers were found to spend an extra 20 minutes on child-care a day, which equals an extra 120 hours per year.  

Dr Giacamo Vagni, a sociology lecturer at the University of Essex, said: “This should be a cause for concern because differences in child development are a cause of long-term inequalities.”


One hypothesis is that university-educated women are more aware of how competitive the professional job market is.

While another theory is that since the 1970s, the “huge” rise in motherhood literature has led to increased cultural pressures within highly educated parents.

Dr Vagni, who did his PHD at the University of Oxford, said he “wish he knew” the policies to level any playing fields between time spent on childcare.

He added: “I think it is a pretty remarkable window into other aspects, the division of labour, households, society-inequality. It’s another way to understand social reality.”

Another major finding from the study, supporting worldwide trends, is that parents from all social classes, educational levels and genders, were spending more time with their children in the past.

Another change was that fathers spent 18 minutes on childcare per day in 1961, which increased to 71 minutes in 2015.

Dr Vagni explained that the 1961 nationally representative questionnaire, the “first major British time-use survey” was distributed in Colchester and also conducted by the BBC in order to understand how people watched TV.  

He added: “Time-use research is really about understanding micro-social change. It’s not just about the big transformations. It’s about the transformations of daily life”.

The UK Data Archive can be found on the Colchester campus and the full study can be found here.