Joan Costa-i-Font, Belén Sáenz de Miera, 20 October 2019

Changes in working hours and the associated time and energy consumed during work can exert an important influence on people’s fitness. However, the effects of such changes on health behaviour and obesity are not well understood. This column examines the effects of a 2001 French national reform that reduced working hours on employee obesity and overweight. Although reduced working times could, in theory, be used for health-promoting activities, in practice it had different effects on white- and blue-collar workers. Policies to reduce working hours alone do not necessarily produce better fitness for everyone.

Andrea Ichino, Martin Olsson, Barbara Petrongolo, Peter Skogman Thoursie, 11 September 2019

Gender identity norms are possible drivers of persistent gender inequalities in the labour market, but the extent to which such norms restrict the behaviour of couples is debated. This column examines how households in Sweden changed their allocation of home production in response to the introduction of a tax credit that altered the marginal tax rates (and the relative take-home pay) in different ways for spouses in couples. It finds that immigrant couples, who tend to come from countries with more traditional gender norms than Sweden, responded more strongly to a reduction in the husband’s tax rate than the wife’s. By not responding to wives’ tax cuts, these couples may forgo as much as £2,000 per year in household disposable income.

Uzma Afzal, Giovanna d’Adda, Marcel Fafchamps, Farah Said, 25 October 2018

Within households, an individual often makes consumption decisions for the collective. Leading intra-household decision making models predict efficiency based on perfect information about individuals’ preferences and benevolence. This column challenges these models by incorporating information asymmetry and demand for agency. Experimental evidence from Pakistan shows that household consumption decisions are shaped by a demand for agency, and that this is mediated by level of empowerment. 

Matthias Doepke, Michèle Tertilt, 20 June 2011

Evidence suggests that putting money in the hands of mothers (as opposed to their husbands) benefits children. Does this mean targeting transfers to women is good economic policy? The authors of CEPR DP8441 find that different forms of empowering women may lead to opposite results. More research is needed to distinguish between alternative theoretical models.

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