The "other" Child Penalty: Work Disability after Motherhood and how Paternity Leave can help
SeriesHealth Economics Seminars
Speaker(s)Sebastien Fontenay (Université Libre Bruxelles, Belgium)
LocationErasmus University, Polak Building, Room 1-21
Date and time
March 12, 2020
12:00 - 13:00
Using Belgian administrative data from 2002-2016, we document the increased incidence rate of work disability among women after motherhood. Using an event study approach, we provide empirical evidence that the probability of women to enter disability diverges from the probability of men to do the same after the birth of their first child. Surprisingly, this child penalty does not disappear over the long run and even up to eight years after childbirth a 1.2 percentage points gap remains. Building on this result, we then show that the provision of paternity leave is an effective public policy to moderate the probability of women to fall into disability after motherhood. We exploit a discontinuity in Belgian legislation, which opened paternity leave only to fathers of children born after the 1st of July 2002. By using a small window of births around this cutoff, we are able to evaluate the causal effect of the paternity leave reform on both parents in a regression discontinuity framework. We find that mothers who had a child with a father eligible for paternity leave spent on average 22 fewer days on disability over a period of 12 years, which corresponds to a 21% decrease. This effect seems to be mostly driven by younger parents who had their first child during the reform year and by a reduction in musculoskeletal disorders, not mental conditions. Finally, we discuss the increased birth spacing induced by the reform, which we think could be the main mechanism behind our results.