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Gender norms and the child penalty in China

/ 2024-04-10

Author:Mingxue Zhang, Yue Wang, Lingling Hou*

Paper journal:Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization

Abstract: We utilize a comprehensive individual panel dataset from China and employ an event study approach to investigate the influence of childbirth on gender disparities across various labor market outcomes, emphasizing the role of gender norms in shaping the child penalty. Our findings show a pronounced decline in individual earnings, labor force participation and working hours for women after childbirth, though labor force participation returns to pre-childbirth level in the long term. Such trends are not observed among men. These gender differentiated outcomes are driven by a key factor: gender norms, specifically women’s and their husbands’ views toward gender roles. Parents’ or in-laws’ views play a smaller role. Women suffer a larger child penalty in individual earnings if they or their spouses hold traditional views compared to those who, or whose spouses, hold more egalitarian views. Potential channels are that traditional views may predispose mothers to focus more on household activities and/or engage in informal jobs that are more flexible and family friendly.