Job Market Paper

How Gender Role Attitudes Shape Maternal Labor Supply (with Tim Mensinger)

Abstract | Paper We examine the influence of gender role attitudes, specifically views about the appropriate role of mothers, on post-childbirth employment decisions. German panel data reveals that mothers with traditional attitudes are 15% less likely to work during early motherhood than their egalitarian counterparts. Among working mothers, those with traditional attitudes work four hours less per week, and these differences persist for at least seven years. Fathers' attitudes also predict maternal labor supply, highlighting joint decision-making within couples. Examining the interaction of attitudes with changes in economic incentives, we find that the introduction of a cash-for-care payment for parents who abstain from using public childcare substantially reduced the labor supply of traditional mothers, whereas egalitarian mothers' labor supply remained unaffected. Moreover, a structural life-cycle model of female labor supply demonstrates that labor supply elasticities are substantially larger for traditional mothers, while a counterfactual policy facilitating full-time childcare access has a more pronounced effect on egalitarian mothers. Our findings stress that gender role attitudes moderate the impact of policies, which implies that measured average policy effects depend on the distribution of attitudes and cannot easily be transferred over time or to other countries.