Paternity leave

A few weeks back I hypothesised that one of the reasons we see women taking the brunt of pushes towards flexibility in work-life balance is that men may face harsher discrimination in the workplace by exercising those options and so end up doing it less. Here is some evidence from a 2003 survey that supports that hypothesis:

“A 2003 study found that men who took leave for birth or eldercare were rated more negatively than their male counterparts who did not take leave. The study also indicated that male evaluators were more judgmental of male leave-takers than were female evaluators,” — “Quick Takes, Working Parents,” Catalyst, a non-profit research group focusing on improving workplaces for women.

5 thoughts on “Paternity leave”

  1. An excellent voxeu paper (essentially a group blog by academic and senior economists) here includes:

    Generous maternal leave policies reinforce the division of labour that underlies the mechanism by which women are offered lower wages. This is likely to further depress women�s professional advancement . Sweden seems to have moved in the right direction with the introduction of a father�s month requirement that compels fathers to take at least 30 days of parental leave. By directly reducing the gender asymmetries in the allocation of parental responsibilities, this policy decreases the potential for statistical discrimination that leads to gender inequalities in wages.

    So… women should be arguing for paternal leave (and better attitudes to dads in the workplace) from a sense of self-interest.


  2. But that quote doesn’t seem to say men who take leave are judged more harshly than women who take leave. Just that men who take leave are judged more harshly than men who don’t. But we already know the same is true for women. We need to know the relative magnitudes.

    Another possible explanation for lack of men taking parental leave/being primary emergency child care backup is that some jobs have more flexibility in hours/fit with family life better than others (eg teaching), but there is a cost to taking such jobs, so both parents don’t want to take them (also explaining occupational segregation). Or that there’s a fixed cost to taking parental leave (boss is unhappy regardless of whether you take 1 month or 1 year), so that it is costly to spread the pain across two people, and new mothers tend to have to take some parental leave just because of the physical issues.

    Both these stories entail fixed costs to anyone taking on any child care responsibilities, making it efficient for the couple that only one does it. It ends up being the woman because it is harder for women to avoid doing some of the child care. This seems to me pretty much what actually happens in most cases.


  3. I can only speak anecdotally, but a male friend of mine divorced and decided he wanted to become the full time carer of his two kids.

    The stories he told me of the backlash from a lot of his (mostly male) friends really surprised me. They were very negative, and it almost seemed like they were threatened by his decision to get off the corporate ladder. Like it threatened their own sense of identity.

    The happy ending is that he did it anyway, his friends got over themselves, and now he couldn’t be happier.


  4. I did this for four years and am now back working part time. We are all to a certain extent validated by our careers, but I for the most part got used to my new situation and enjoyed it. I had very little negative feedback and a little envy from some who would like to have done that. It worked for our family, which was the important thing. I am very happy with my work arrangement now.


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