Why Daddy Doesn’t Do It: Paternal Leave Effects across the Wage Distribution

Kathrin Morosow , University of Manchester
Lynn Prince Cooke, University of Bath

A persistent barrier to achieving gender economic equality is that women still do far more care work than fathers. Nordic countries such as Finland have been at the forefront of addressing this issue by introducing well-paid and father-only leave schemes. Nonetheless, Finnish fathers take on average far less parental leave than mothers, and there are further differences in leave take-up among fathers. Why? All fathers claim they fear economic penalties for taking leave, with high-wage fathers in particular worrying about long-term career repercussions. To assess whether these fears are valid, and whether policies that more strongly encourage fathers’ leave reduce its economic consequences, we analyze 1995 to 2011 waves of high-quality Finnish register-based data and compare the impact of taking parental leave on fathers’ wage distribution before and after the 2003 introduction of a “father’s month.” Fixed-effects unconditional quantile regression results reveal that taking leave predicts lower wages only among fathers at the bottom of the wage distribution, both before and after the reform. We conclude even more progressive family policies thus far fail to address the greater economic barriers to care among the least-advantaged fathers.

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 Presented in Session 46. Policies on Parental Leave