Estimating Lost Secondary Childcare in Wrongful Death Cases

When a parent dies, the childcare that they would have provided had they lived is lost to their surviving family members. In wrongful death cases, survivors may seek the cost of replacing lost childcare as part of their overall claim of economic loss. To calculate this cost, one must first estimate the hours of childcare that the decedent would have provided had they lived.

Such estimates can be calculated using data from the American Time Use Survey (ATUS), a continuous survey of time-use in the United States. ATUS has been conducted jointly by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the U.S. Census Bureau since 2003. Currently, ATUS time-use data span five years (through 2007) and detail the activities of over 72,000 respondents. Since ATUS respondents are a subset of respondents to the U.S. Census Bureau’s more extensive Current Population Survey (CPS), researchers can combine ATUS time-use data with socioeconomic data from the CPS to investigate how time-use varies among populations based on detailed demographics.

ATUS divides time-use into over 400 primary activity categories. These include childcare activities reported as the respondents’ primary activity (i.e. primary childcare). In addition, ATUS tracks childcare reported as a secondary activity during primary activities other than child care (i.e. secondary childcare). In this paper, I consider whether secondary childcare variables, as defined by ATUS, are valid for estimating lost childcare in wrongful death cases. In addition, I present a methodology for deriving more valid estimates of lost secondary childcare from ATUS data and present these estimates for decedents with varying demographics.

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