Working papers

“Speedy responses: Effects of higher benefits on take-up and division of parental leave”  

The length of parental leave entitlements is known to affect take-up rates, division of parental leave between parents and the mother’s decision to return to work. So far however the importance of the level of benefit has received little attention in the literature. Using population wide register data I exploit the “speed premium” rule in the Swedish parental leave system as a source of random variation in the benefit level. A fuzzy RD strategy is used to estimate the causal effect of a change in the level of benefits per day on the utilization of parental leave among Swedish parents. The results suggest that parents’ take-up of benefits is highly sensitive to the benefit level. A 1% (5 SEK / 0.54$) increase in the mother’s benefit level is found to increase her length of leave by about 1% (2.6 days).  This translates into an elasticity of take-up duration (length of spell) with respect to the benefit level of 1, a parameter that has not been estimated before. The fathers respond to the increase in mothers’ take-up by reducing their time on leave by an almost equivalent number of days (2 days). In other words, the change in benefit level affects not only the individual’s take-up, but the division of parental leave between parents.

“Does the gender composition in couples matter for the division of labor after childbirth?” IFAU (2016:8).

In this paper I compare the effect of entering parenthood on the spousal income gaps in lesbian and heterosexual couples using Swedish population wide register data. Comparing couples with similar pre-childbirth income gaps, a difference-in-differences strategy is used to estimate the impact of the gender composition of the couple on the spousal income gap after childbirth. The results indicate that the gender composition of the couple does matter for the division of labor after having children. Five years after childbirth the income gap is smaller in lesbian than in heterosexual couples also when comparing couples with the same pre-parenthood income gap. Heterosexual couples’ division of labor seems to be influenced by traditional gender norms, regardless of their pre-childbirth income gap. In lesbian couples the partners’ relative earnings before parenthood and a principle about fairness may be more important, as well as the partners’ preferences for giving birth as the birth giving partner typically spends more time on parental leave.

“Estimating participation responses using transfer program reform”  (with Håkan Selin and Spencer Bastani) IFAU (2016:1).

In this paper we estimate labor force participation responses for married women in Sweden using population-wide register data and detailed information about individuals’ budget sets. For identification we exploit a reform in the system for housing allowances in 1997 which affected participation tax rates for households with/without children differently. Using a simple theoretical framework we provide a structural interpretation of our estimates and highlight how the employment response depends on the employment level. Our central estimate of the participation elasticity is 0.13. When splitting the treated sample into four quartiles based on the wife’s skill level we find that the participation elasticity is more than twice as large for the lowest-skill sample than for the highest-skill sample.

Work in progress

“Biology or social norms? Why do mothers take more parental leave?”

The skewed division of parental responsibilities during a child’s infancy is often assumed to be a natural consequence of the mother being pregnant and wanting to breastfeed. In this paper I investigate to what extent the tendency to let the mother be the main caregiver of an infant can be explained by the fact that she is the one to be pregnant, not the father. Using the division of parental leave during the child’s first two years with the parents as a proxy for the division of parental responsibilities, I compare the behavior of biological parents (where the mother gave birth) to adoptive parents (where she did not) in Swedish population-wide register data. My results show that adoptive parents, both mothers and fathers, spend less time on parental leave than biological parents, but that the mother’s share of leave is about the same as among biological parents. There is thus some support for the hypothesis that a biological tie increases parents’ initial investment in children, but not that this relationship is stronger for women. Hence, there is no evidence that the mother’s birth giving status can explain her share of parental responsibilities. Due to methodological challenges, it is difficult to disentangle the different mechanisms that could explain the results.