A 2020 survey by the U.S. Census Bureau found that the coronavirus pandemic influenced some American families to spend more shared quality time together.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The dark clouds of the coronavirus pandemic had a silver lining for some American families, according to officials of the U.S. Census Bureau.

Census statistician Yeris Mayol-Garcia reports that one positive consequence of the COVID-19 health crisis was that some parents spent more quality time with their children.

That time included shared dinners and periods devoted to reading to children, especially during the spring and summer of 2020, when lockdowns and quarantines were in effect in many parts of the United States.

That’s one of the conclusions of the Census’ 2020 Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), Mayol-Garcia explains.

The annual SIPP study collects information on the well-being of children, including details on parental involvement. In 2020, SIPP interviews were conducted in the March to June time frame.

Census interviewers asked an available parent (usually the mother) to identify the number of times in a typical week that one or both parents had dinner with their children under the age of 17 or spent time reading to younger offspring.

The findings of the SIPP were that, in 2020, 69 percent of parents reported reading to their young children five or more times per week. That compared to 65 percent of parents in 2018 and 64 percent in 2019.

In response to SIPP questions about shared dinners with children under 17, 85 percent of female parents answered positively, compared to 84 percent in 2019.

The proportion of male parents sharing meals with children rose to 63 percent in 2020, up from 56 percent in 2019.

But the 2020 SIPP’s findings about family quality time in the midst of a pandemic weren’t entirely positive, Mayol-Garcia admits.

“Most likely as a result of COVID-19 lockdowns early in 2020,” the statistician adds, “the proportion of (female) parents taking their young children on outings two or more times a week dropped from 87 percent in 2019 to 82 percent in 2020.

“The frequency of children’s weekly outings with (male) parents were not statistically different across those same years (about 67 percent).”

Census analysts attribute the decline in parent-child outings during 2020 to many factors, including commercial shutdowns and travel bans. Many places that families typically visit – like restaurants and malls – were closed during the height of the pandemic. Both foreign and domestic travel was also discouraged or banned during 2020.

Solo parents – those with no spouse or cohabiting partner present in the home – were especially hard hit during the pandemic due to constraints on their time, finances and availability of familial support.

About 75 percent of those solo parents reported going on two or more family outings a week in 2020, compared to 86 percent in 2019.

The 2020 SIPP study also found that parents who reported that the pandemic had a positive impact on their relationships with children were predictably native-born, financially advantaged and better educated than the average survey respondent.

The annual STPP study is a national survey administered by the Census Bureau that provides comprehensive information on the dynamics of income, employment, household demographics and government program participation.

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