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The Economic Consequences of Family Policies: Lessons from a Century of Legislation in High-Income Countries

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  • Claudia Olivetti
  • Barbara Petrongolo

Abstract

By the early 21st century, most high-income countries have put into effect a host of generous and virtually gender-neutral parental leave policies and family benefits, with the multiple goals of gender equity, higher fertility, and child development. What have been the effects? Proponents typically emphasize the contribution of family policies to the goals of gender equity and child development, enabling women to combine careers and motherhood, and altering social norms regarding gender roles. Opponents often warn that family policies may become a long-term hindrance to women's careers because of the loss of work experience and the higher costs to employers that hire women of childbearing age. We draw lessons from existing work and our own analysis on the effects of parental leave and other interventions aimed at aiding families. We present country- and micro-level evidence on the effects of family policy on gender outcomes, focusing on female employment, gender gaps in earnings, and fertility. Most estimates range from negligible to a small positive impact. But the verdict is far more positive for the beneficial impact of spending on early education and childcare.

Suggested Citation

  • Claudia Olivetti & Barbara Petrongolo, 2017. "The Economic Consequences of Family Policies: Lessons from a Century of Legislation in High-Income Countries," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 31(1), pages 205-230, Winter.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:31:y:2017:i:1:p:205-30
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.31.1.205
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    Cited by:

    1. Libertad González Luna & Lidia Farré, 2017. "The effects of paternity leave on fertility and labor market outcomes," Economics Working Papers 1572, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
    2. Bana, Sarah & Bedard, Kelly & Rossin-Slater, Maya, 2018. "The Impacts of Paid Family Leave Benefits: Regression Kink Evidence from California Administrative Data," IZA Discussion Papers 11381, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. Fortin, Nicole M. & Bell, Brian & Böhm, Michael, 2017. "Top earnings inequality and the gender pay gap: Canada, Sweden, and the United Kingdom," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 47(C), pages 107-123.
    4. repec:ces:ifodic:v:15:y:2017:i:2:p:19337559 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Joanna Tyrowicz & Magdalena Smyk & Lucas van der Velde, 2018. "A cautionary note on the reliability of the online survey data - the case of Wage Indicator," GRAPE Working Papers 26, GRAPE Group for Research in Applied Economics.
    6. Andreas Steinhauer, 2018. "Working Moms, Childlessness, and Female Identity," Sciences Po publications 79, Sciences Po.
    7. Francine D. Blau & Anne E. Winkler, 2017. "Women, Work, and Family," NBER Working Papers 23644, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Aaronson, Daniel & Dehejia, Rajeev & Jordon, Andrew & Pop-Eleches, Cristian & Samii, Cyrus & Schultze, Karl, 2017. "The Effect of Fertility on Mothers’ Labor Supply over the Last Two Centuries," MPRA Paper 76768, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    9. Sarah Bana & Kelly Bedard & Maya Rossin-Slater, 2018. "The Impacts of Paid Family Leave Benefits: Regression Kink Evidence from California Administrative Data," NBER Working Papers 24438, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. repec:ces:ifodic:v:15:y:2017:i:2:p:26-30 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Nan L. Maxwell & Nathan Wozny, "undated". "Gender Gaps in Time Use and Earnings: What's Norms Got to Do With It?," Mathematica Policy Research Reports 38f127bf7f494794807db7a3a, Mathematica Policy Research.
    12. Razzu, Giovanni & Singleton, Carl & Mitchell, Mark, 2018. "On why gender employment equality in Britain has stalled since the early 1990s," MPRA Paper 87190, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    13. Krzysztof Makarski & Joanna Tyrowicz & Magda Malec, 2018. "Evaluating welfare and economic effects of raised fertility," GRAPE Working Papers 25, GRAPE Group for Research in Applied Economics.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J18 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Public Policy
    • K36 - Law and Economics - - Other Substantive Areas of Law - - - Family and Personal Law
    • N30 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • N40 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - General, International, or Comparative

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