Titan Alon, Matthias Doepke, Jane Olmstead-Rumsey, Michèle Tertilt, 22 September 2020

Unlike any other modern recession, the downturn triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic has created larger employment losses for women than for men. Based on data from all US recessions since 1949, this column shows that the 2020 recession deviates most sharply from the historical norm in its disparate gender impact. The fact that job losses are much higher for women not only matters for gender equality, but will also reduce families’ ability to offset income losses, producing a deeper and more persistent recession.

Sam Cosaert, Alexandros Theloudis, Bertrand Verheyden, 28 August 2020

COVID-19 lockdowns and school closures have affected working hours and household income, with an unequal effect on women and men. The collective model of the household has hitherto ignored distinctions between private versus joint activities by parents in household time allocation. This column examines the evolving costs and benefits of togetherness, using Dutch data for 2009–2012, and speculates on how lockdown policies may affect togetherness and household welfare. Joint leisure and childcare generate a loss of flexibility in the labour market, and joint childcare prevents specialisation, generating tension between parental childcare quality and quantity.

Daniela Del Boca, Noemi Oggero, Paola Profeta, Mariacristina Rossi, 19 June 2020

The social distancing measures adopted to slow the spread of COVID-19 have placed a particular burden on families. Using survey data collected in April 2020 from a representative sample of Italian women, this column asks how working from home – combined with school closures – has affected the working arrangements, housework, and childcare provisions of couples in which both partners are employed. Most of the additional responsibilities have fallen to women, though childcare activities are shared more equally than housework.

Almudena Sevilla, Sarah Smith, 16 June 2020

The closure of schools and nurseries during the current pandemic has led to a huge burden of additional childcare for parents. This column discusses how survey data collected at the beginning of May 2020 that asked about employment and childcare pre- and post-COVID to shows that women have borne the majority of this burden and many have been left juggling work and childcare. However, fathers have also increased the time they spend on childcare and, when they are not working, there is an equal allocation.

Nicola Fuchs-Schündeln, Moritz Kuhn, Michèle Tertilt, 30 May 2020

The COVID-19 crisis has hit women’s employment particularly hard, partly because the worst-hit sectors have high female employment shares, but also because schools and daycare closures have forced more mothers to leave their jobs. This column looks at Germany, where 26% of the workforce has children aged 14 or younger, and quantifies the macroeconomic importance of working parents. If schools and daycare centres remain closed as the economy slowly reopens, 11% of workers and 8% of all working hours will be lost to the labour market. Policies to restart the economy must accommodate the concerns of these families.

Elisabetta De Cao, Malte Sandner, 08 May 2020

COVID-19 is altering family dynamics in ways that threaten to put already vulnerable children at increased risk of abuse and neglect. This column describes the latest empirical evidence charting how a decline in childcare availability and employment can affect the treatment of children within families. Recommending that the immense costs of child maltreatment be considered in cost-benefit calculations of lockdown measures, the column also urges governments to work with social and health care providers to integrate children’s welfare in future risk reduction and preparedness.

Thushyanthan Baskaran, Zohal Hessami, 18 February 2020

The fact that women are underrepresented in politics is often viewed as an important social problem. But why should it be a problem? This column argues that when too few women hold political office, political decisions may not adequately reflect women’s needs and preferences. Using the example of the public provision of childcare in Germany, it shows that municipalities with a higher share of female councillors expand public childcare more quickly. The fact that the presence of women has substantive effects on policies should be taken into account in current debates around the introduction of gender quotas in politics.

Petra Persson, Maya Rossin-Slater, 01 September 2019

Workplace flexibility is believed to be a key factor for improving labour market outcomes among mothers and further reducing the gender pay gap, but less is known about other aspects of flexibility, such as whether fathers value it or whether other household members benefit from it. This column uses a Swedish social insurance reform to show that when more workplace flexibility is available, fathers use it, and that flexibility for fathers has positive spillover effects on maternal health.

Haiyue Yu, Jin Cao, Shulong Kang, 13 December 2018

In a country where grandparents provide a significant amount of childcare, China’s plans to gradually delay retirement over the next few decades may significantly impact the labour supply and lifetime earnings of young women. Using the China Family Panel Studies survey data, this column demonstrates that the provision of grandparental childcare affects females’ income, in particular better-educated, urban females with younger children. An increase in public childcare subsidies may be required to complement the phasing-in of the retirement policy in China.

Francesca Carta, Lucia Rizzica, 26 June 2018

A growing number of advanced economies are opting for highly subsidised childcare systems. But studies have shown mixed effects of subsidised childcare on children’s outcomes, suggesting a potential trade-off between promoting female labour supply and providing the best care for children. This column shows that an expansion of subsidised childcare in Italy increased female labour supply without hurting children’s outcomes. Childcare could be made more cost-effective by making it conditional on the mother’s employment status, or incentivising firms to provide corporate childcare options.

Jorge Luis García, James Heckman, Duncan Ermini Leaf, María Prados, 25 August 2017

The costs and benefits of early childcare for working women and their children are hotly debated. This column explores the long-term benefits and costs of a programme in the US providing high-quality childcare services for disadvantaged families. The programme has a two-generation impact, improving mothers’ labour income, work experience, and education, as well as outcomes for the children. The results also suggest that the benefits of high-quality compared to low-quality formal care are higher for boys than for girls. Overall, the benefits more than recoup the costs.

Nezih Guner, Remzi Kaygusuz, Gustavo Ventura, 10 June 2017

Childcare subsidy provision in the US remains substantially lower than in many other developed economies. This column compares the potential effects of expanding three existing subsidy programmes in the US. It also argues, however, that amassing majority support for the expansion of any of the programmes would be difficult given the relatively few number of households the transfers benefit. 

Claudia Olivetti, Barbara Petrongolo, 03 June 2017

Family-oriented policies – such as parental leave, childcare support, and flexible work arrangements – are in place in all high-income countries, as well as several developing countries. This column assesses the labour market impacts of these policies, based on a review of the literature and data on 30 OECD countries over 45 years. While there is no clear consensus, a general theme is that policies that make it easier to be a working mother, such as subsidised childcare, seem to have better labour market outcomes than extending parental leave.

, 10 October 2016

Why do women reduce the number of working hours after the birth of the second child? Marion Leturcq studies 3000 women to assess whether high-skilled and low-skilled women are affected differently by having another child. This video was recorded during the European Economic Association's Congress held in Geneva at the end of August 2016.

Sandra Black, Jason Furman, Emma Rackstraw, Nirupama Rao, 06 July 2016

Labour force participation among men ages 25-54 in the US has been falling for more than six decades. This column examines this longstanding decline, its potential causes, and its implications for public policy and the future of the US labour market.

Vincenzo Galasso, Paola Profeta, Chiara Pronzato, Francesco Billari, 16 November 2013

The gender gap in labour-force participation rates is still not closing up. Among other factors, cultural aspects may play a role. This column describes an experimental study, conducted with women from Italy, on the benefits of formal childcare on outcomes of children. Highly educated women are positively affected by the information about formal childcare. Low-educated mothers, however, do not increase their use of childcare facilities, or their labour supply.

Chris Herbst, Erdal Tekin, 09 October 2010

Do subsidies for childcare succeed in getting parents to work and improving the wellbeing of the children? This column presents evidence from the US suggesting that childcare subsidies have an unintended consequence. In the short run, children from low-income families are worse off as their parents go off to work and they receive low-quality childcare.

Catia Nicodemo, 25 July 2009

It seems intuitive that more affordable childcare would encourage mothers to enter into the labour force. But this column documents the persistence of unpaid, non-parental childcare in southern European countries such as Greece, Italy, and Spain. It stresses the importance of this finding for formulating new policies to encourage female labour participation.

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