Mothers' Employment, Parental Absence and Children's Educational Gender Gap

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IZA Seminar

Place: Schaumburg-Lippe-Str. 9, 53113 Bonn

Date: 22.06.2017, 12:15 - 13:30


Presentation by 

Hanming Fang (University of Pennsylvania)


This paper analyzes the connections between three concurrent trends since 1950: (1) the narrowing and reversal of the educational gender gap; (2) the increasing labor force participation rate (LFPR) of married women; (3) the rising incidence of children living with only one parent. We hypothesize that the education production for boys is more adversely affected by a decrease in parental time input as a result of increasing maternal employment or parental absence. Therefore, a pronounced increase in the labor force participation rate of married women as well as the rising incidence of absent fathers may narrow and even reverse the educational gender gap in the child generation. We use micro data from the Norwegian registry to directly show that the parental employment during their children’s childhood has an asymmetric effect on the educational achievement of their own sons and daughters. We also document a positive correlation between the educational gender gap in a particular generation and the LFPR of married women in the mother generation as well as the incidence of parental absence (mostly absence of fathers) at the U.S. state level. We then propose a model that generates a novel prediction about the implications of these asymmetric effects on parental labor supply decisions and find supporting evidence in both the U.S. and Norwegian data.

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