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Gender Inequality: Sources and Solutions

Paper Session

Sunday, Jan. 6, 2019 8:00 AM - 10:00 AM

Atlanta Marriott Marquis, A707
Hosted By: American Economic Association
  • Chair: Henrik Kleven, Princeton University

How Gender Influences Responses to Failure and Success

Heather Sarsons
Harvard University


This paper provides evidence that a person's gender influences the way others interpret information about his or her ability and documents the implications for gender inequality in labor markets. Using data on physicians' referrals to surgical specialists, I find that referring physicians view patient outcomes differently depending on the performing surgeon's gender. Physicians become more pessimistic about a female surgeon's ability than a male's after a patient death, indicated by a sharper drop in referrals to the female surgeon. However, physicians become more optimistic about a male surgeon's ability after a good patient outcome, indicated by a larger increase in the number of referrals the male surgeon receives. Physicians also change their behavior toward other female surgeons after a bad experience with one female surgeon, becoming less likely to refer to new women in the same specialty. There are no such spillovers to other men after a bad experience with one male surgeon. Consistent with learning models, physicians' reactions to events are strongest when they have just begun to refer to a surgeon. However, the empirical patterns are consistent with Bayesian learning only if physicians do not have rational expectations about the true distribution of surgeon ability.

Gender Norms and Gender Inequality

Marianne Bertrand
University of Chicago



Public Policy and the Dynamics of Gender Inequality

Henrik Kleven
Princeton University
Camille Landais
London School of Economics
Johanna Posch
European University Institute
Andreas Steinhauer
University of Edinburgh
Josef Zweimüller
University of Zurich


Recent evidence from developed countries shows that gender inequality in labor market outcomes is largely driven by the unequal impacts of parenthood on women and men. This puts family policies such as parental leave and child care provision at the center stage of debates about gender inequality. Using administrative data from Austria and quasi-experimental research designs, we provide an integrated and dynamic treatment of the impact of children, parental leave, and child care provision on gender gaps. Using event studies around child birth, we start by documenting the large and persistent effects of parenthood on gender gaps, consistent with evidence from other countries. We then leverage quasi-experimental variation in parental leave schemes and in child care provision to understand how those policies affect the dynamics of gender gaps around child birth. We find that parental leave schemes increase gender inequality in the short run (as it subsidizes women to stay at home), but have no effect in the long run. In contrast, we find that child care provision reduces gender inequality in both the short and long run, and these effects are quite large. We do not find any evidence of cross-effects between these two policies: the long-run effect of parental leave is insignificant under both low and high child care provision. Taken together, our findings show that parental leave policy is not an important policy instrument for dealing with gender inequality in the labor market (but may have other merits), whereas public child care provision is an effective instrument.
Francine D. Blau
Cornell University
JEL Classifications
  • J1 - Demographic Economics
  • H3 - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents