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Law, Economics, and Culture: Theory of Mandated Benefits and Evidence from Maternity Leave Policies


  • Yehonatan Givati
  • Ugo Troiano


Why do some countries mandate a long maternity leave, while others mandate only a short one? We incorporate into a standard mandated-benefit model social tolerance of gender-based discrimination, showing that the optimal length of maternity leave depends on it. The less tolerant a society is of gender-based discrimination, the longer the maternity leave it will mandate. Relying on recent research in psychology and linguistics according to which patterns in languages offer a window into their speakers' dispositions, we collected new data on the number of gender-differentiated personal pronouns across languages to capture societies' attitudes toward gender-based discrimination. We first confirm, using within-country language variation, that our linguistic measure is correlated with attitudes toward gender-based discrimination. Then, using cross-country data on length of maternity leave, while controlling for other parameters, we find a strong correlation between our language-based measure of attitudes and the length of maternity leave.

Suggested Citation

  • Yehonatan Givati & Ugo Troiano, 2012. "Law, Economics, and Culture: Theory of Mandated Benefits and Evidence from Maternity Leave Policies," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 55(2), pages 339-364.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlawec:doi:10.1086/663632

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Ugo Troiano & Giacomo Ponzetto, 2012. "Social Capital, Government Expenditures, and Growth," 2012 Meeting Papers 1048, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    2. Brollo, Fernanda & Troiano, Ugo, 2016. "What happens when a woman wins an election? Evidence from close races in Brazil," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 122(C), pages 28-45.
    3. Gay, Victor & Hicks, Daniel L. & Santacreu-Vasut, Estefania & Shoham, Amir, 2017. "Decomposing culture: An analysis of gender, language, and labor supply in the household," MPRA Paper 77637, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. Troiano, Ugo A., 2018. "Labor Market Attitudes and Experienced Political Institutions," MPRA Paper 83927, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    5. Hicks, Daniel L. & Santacreu-Vasut, Estefania & Shoham, Amir, 2015. "Does mother tongue make for women's work? Linguistics, household labor, and gender identity," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 110(C), pages 19-44.

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