Headstrong Girls and Dependent Boys: Gender Differences in the Labor Market Returns to Child Behavior
The authors use data from the Children of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (C-NLSY79) to examine gender differences in the associations between child behavioral problems and early adult earnings. They find large and significant earnings penalties for women who exhibited more headstrong behavior and for men who exhibited more dependent behavior as children. In contrast, there are no penalties for men who were headstrong or for women who were dependent. While other child behavioral problems are also associated with labor market earnings, their associations are not significantly different by gender. The gender differences in headstrong and dependent behavior are not explained by education, marriage, depression, self-esteem, health, or adult personality traits. However, one potential explanation is that these gender differences are a consequence of deviations from gender norms and stereotypes in the workplace.
We would like to thank Alice Eagly, David Figlio, Seema Jayachandran, Kevin Lang, and Terri Sabol for their valuable comments. Timea Viragh, Yuheng Wang, and Yaling Xu provided excellent research assistance. All errors are our own. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.