Children and the Remaining Gender Gaps in the Labor Market

The past five decades have seen a remarkable convergence in the economic roles of men and women in society. Yet, persistently large gender gaps in terms of labor supply, earnings and representation in top jobs remain. Moreover, in countries like the US, convergence in labor market outcomes appears to have slowed in recent decades. Could the gendered differential impacts of parenting be part of the remaining gender gap in the labor market?

In a new working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, Patricia Cortés and Jessica Pan propose a model of household decision-making to study the link between children and gender pay gaps, and to understand what factors of parenthood produce differential labor outcomes for men and women. 

Cortés and Pan focus on the role of children, showing many potential explanations for the remaining gender disparities in labor market outcomes are related to the fact that children impose significantly larger penalties on the career trajectories of women relative to men. In the US, close to two-thirds of the overall gender earnings gap can be accounted for by the differential impacts of children on women and men. 

The authors discuss several forces that might make the road to gender equity even more challenging for modern cohorts of parents, and offer a critical discussion of public policies seeking to address the remaining gender gaps in the labor market.

Read the Working Paper