Can Public Policy Shape Gender Stereotypes? The Impact of Paternity Leave on the Next Generation

with L. Farré, L. Gonzalez and P. Schneider

Recent evidence suggests that gender gaps in the labor market can be attributed at least in part to social norms. Attitudes towards gender roles may be formed during childhood, and are probably affected by the attitudes and behaviors of parents. Can a policy that affects parents’ behaviors change their children’s attitudes towards gender roles, and thus gender gaps in the labor market in the next generation? We exploit the introduction of paternity leave in Spain in 2007, which led to mothers returning to work earlier and fathers doing more childcare persistently. We elicit attitudes towards gender roles from children at age 12. We combine a regression discontinuity approach based on exact date of birth with a difference-in-differences specification that compares two cohorts of children. We hypothesize that children whose fathers were eligible for paternity leave may have developed attitudes that are less gender-stereotyped, and their own behaviors and aspirations may thus be less gender-stereotypical.