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Parenthood, Policy and Labor Market Outcomes

Paper Session

Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM (EST)

Hosted By: American Economic Association
  • Chair: Olivia J. Healy, Northwestern University

A Matter of Time? The Impact of Full-day Kindergarten Expansions on Maternal Employment

Chloe R. Gibbs
University of Notre Dame


This study explores the effect of full-day kindergarten expansions on maternal labor supply. Because provision of full-day kindergarten subsidizes more childcare—providing approximately three additional hours of public schooling relative to half-day kindergarten—mothers may be made more available for labor market participation as a result. In addition, women may avoid a disruption in their labor market attachment associated with the half-day kindergarten schedule. This project investigates the responsiveness of both the intensive and the extensive margins of female labor supply. Using event study and difference-in-differences methods and capitalizing on policy changes across the United States over time, this work contributes to our understanding of the factors that influence mothers’ entry into, exit out of, and attachment to the labor force. While full-day kindergarten provision in the U.S. has rapidly expanded over the past three decades, policy discourse about its availability and research pursuits have largely ignored labor force implications. In addition to evaluating the direct effects of such policy shifts on educational outcomes, labor market effects are clearly an important consideration in assessing their net impact on children and families and cost-effectiveness.

Ridesharing and Women's Labor Market Outcomes

Javaeria A. Qureshi
University of Illinois-Chicago


This study evaluates the effects of the introduction of ridesharing on the labor market outcomes of women, and mothers, in particular. The dramatic growth in ridesharing offered by companies like Uber and Lyft in the past decade has significantly improved the transportation choice set. It is possible that ridesharing, which provides on demand transportation, enables more women to work or have different work outcomes if it is faster, cheaper, and/or more convenient than the alternative means of transportation they had access to prior to its entry. Mothers of young children may be particularly sensitive to the high time, money and psychic costs of travel to and from work: mothers are commonly in charge of picking and dropping children off at school/daycare, and more likely to be “on call” for unanticipated domestic events than fathers.

To evaluate the effect of ridesharing availability on women’s labor market outcomes, I exploit the differential timing of rideshare entry – Uber and Lyft – across cities in the US. Specifically, I use an event study specification to evaluate how women’s labor market outcomes measured in the American Community Survey 2005-2017 rounds evolve after the entry of rideshare in their cities. These effects on women’s labor market outcomes include both the direct effects of rideshare entry through an expanded number of work opportunities, and the broader effects of improved transport options. Future analysis will explore mechanisms behind these effects and try to parse out these various channels.

Parenthood, Job Performance, and Paid Parental Leave: Evidence from the Marine Corps

Olivia J. Healy
Northwestern University
Jennifer A. Heissel
Naval Postgraduate School


Almost four million babies are born in the U.S. every year (Hamilton et al., 2019). For new parents, childbirth brings lack of sleep, emotional stressors, and neurobiological changes, all of which can impact adult health and well-being (Saxbe et al., 2018). In turn, consequences of parenthood may spillover into parents’ performance at work. Yet this is speculative, as few data sources track consistent measures of job performance over time. The present study leverages novel data from the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) to evaluate the impact of childbirth on mothers’ and fathers’ job performance in the U.S. Marines. We use an event-study framework to assess changes in worker productivity, including physical performance scores and job evaluations, among first-time, active-duty Marine parents over the childbirth event, relative to active-duty Marines who do not become parents during the study window (2010-2019). We then use exogenous shocks to the length of DoD-funded parental leave to examine whether more generous leave policies mitigate (or exacerbate) the effects of parenthood on work performance.

Results indicate that both first-time mothers’ and fathers’ job-related physical performance suffers immediately following child birth. Mothers and fathers tend to run slower on timed-run assessments and their overall job-related physical fitness scores suffer, while mothers also have lower job performance evaluations post-birth. Effects are larger and last longer for women after a birth compared to men. The analysis quantifies the impact of variation in paid leave length on job performance outcomes.

Is Parental Leave Costly for Firms and Coworkers?

Anne A. Brenøe
University of Zurich
Serena P. Canaan
American University-Beirut
Nikolaj A. Harmon
University of Copenhagen
Heather N. Royer
University of California-Santa Barbara


Most of the existing evidence on the effectiveness of family leave policies comes from studies focusing on their impacts on affected families - that is, mothers, fathers, and their children - without a clear understanding of the costs and effects on firms and coworkers. We use data from Denmark to evaluate the effect on firms and coworkers when a worker gives birth and goes on leave. Using a dynamic difference-in-differences design, we compare small firms in which a female employee is about to give birth to an observationally equivalent sample of small firms with female employees who are not close to giving birth. Identification rests on a parallel trends assumption, which we substantiate through a set of natural validity checks. When an employee gives birth she goes on leave from her firm for 9.5 months on average. Firms respond by increasing their labor inputs along several margins such that the net effect on total work hours is close to zero. Firms' total wage bill increases in response to leave take up, but this is driven entirely by wages paid to workers on leave for which firms receive reimbursement. There are no measurable effects on firm output, profitability or survival. Finally, coworkers of the woman going on leave see temporary increases in their hours, earnings, and likelihood of being employed but experience no significant changes in well-being at work as proxied by sick days. Overall, our results suggest that employees going on parental leave impose negligible costs on their firm and coworkers.
Martha Bailey
University of California-Los Angeles
Rita Ginja
University of Bergen
Yana Gallen
University of Chicago
Kjell Gunnar Salvanes
Norwegian School of Economics
JEL Classifications
  • J2 - Demand and Supply of Labor
  • J1 - Demographic Economics