Parenthood, Family Friendly Workplaces, and the Gender Gaps in Early Work Careers

V. Joseph Hotz, Per Johansson, Arizo Karimi

NBER Working Paper No. 24173
Issued in December 2017, Revised in June 2018
NBER Program(s):Children, Labor Studies

We consider the role that workplace attributes play in accounting for the divergence in the careers of women and men, with the onset of parenthood. We exploit matched employer-employee data from Sweden to characterize a model-based index of workplace “family friendliness” and analyze the effect of more family friendly workplaces on the career gaps between mothers and fathers. We find that exogenously moving mothers to more family friendly workplaces would raise their wages and labor income. In contrast, such moves would entail reductions in the same outcomes for fathers, resulting in sizeable improvements in the parental gender gap in wages and income. At the same time, working in more family friendly workplaces would not reduce the penalty to wage rates earned by women with their transition to motherhood (i.e., the motherhood penalty), but it would reduce the motherhood penalty to earned income by facilitating mothers working more hours. Furthermore, the benefits of family friendly workplaces appear to come at the expense of the occupational skill progression of mothers relative to non-mothers, impeding mothers’ ability to climb career ladders over the longer run. Finally, using auxiliary data based on a survey, we find that jobs – as defined by our index – are more substitutable for one another in family friendly workplaces. This substitutability of workers in more family friendly workplaces appears to be the mechanism that facilitates mothers’ ability to balance work and family responsibilities in such workplaces. At the same time, it also may partially explain our finding that more family friendly workplaces slow mothers’ occupational skill-progression.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w24173

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