Job Market Paper

A copy of this paper can be downloaded by clicking here.

“Reserving Time for Daddy: The Short- and Long-Run Consequences of Fathers’ Quotas” 

In order to motivate fathers to participate in parental leave, several nations have reformed their leave programs to offer higher benefits and institute `daddy-only’ quotas that reserve some weeks of leave for fathers. Though fathers’ participation increases when a quota is introduced, it is unclear whether fathers are responding to financial incentives or the changed constraint or the `daddy-only’ label in itself. Furthermore, although paternity leave may facilitate temporary changes in the division of household labor, little is known about whether these effects persist in later years. This paper examines these issues while conducting the first comprehensive causal analysis of the Quebec Parental Insurance Program (QPIP), a landmark reform to parental leave that increased benefits for all parents and reserved some weeks for fathers.

Exploiting plausibly exogenous variation in program experience, I utilize data on benefit claims to first explore the short-term effects of this reform on parents’ leave behavior. I first use a regression discontinuity analysis based on the month of birth, and find that QPIP had an immediate program effect of increasing fathers’ leave participation by 53 percentage points, or by 200% from the pre-reform baseline. Further, QPIP also had an immediate effect on fathers’ leave duration, increasing it by 3.1 weeks or 150% from baseline. Next I investigate the average treatment effect on parents’ leave behavior since the new program has been introduced. To do so, I use a longer span of data and apply a difference-in-differences estimation exploiting variation across provinces over time. This method finds a similarly large increase in fathers’ leave-taking, and in addition detects a small increase in mothers’ leave participation and duration as well. Further, I find evidence that the `daddy-only’ quota produces an intra-household fly-paper effect: even though the quota does not change a binding constraint for most families in Quebec, the `daddy’ benefits stick to fathers. This suggests that one of the reasons that daddy quotas are effective is that they produce a labeling effect from the `daddy-only’ label.

I use this exogenous increase in fathers’ leave taking under QPIP to examine the causal effects of paternity leave on the household division of labor in the long term. I utilize data from time-diaries, and employ a triple-differences method that exploits variation in exposure to QPIP across provinces, time and the age of one’s children. I find a large and persistent effect on the division of household labor. In exposed households, fathers experience decreased time in market work  and personal income, while mothers experience increased time at the workplace, labor supply, and personal income. The organization of non-market work also changes: Fathers increase time in housework, while mothers move time away from housework and towards childcare instead. Overall, households exposed to QPIP are found to be less sex specialized.

Taken together, the results of this study shed light on how leave schemes can be designed to induce fathers to participate, and confirm that small changes in the initial parenting experience can have lasting effects on parents’ behavior. More broadly, these findings highlight that there need not be a trade-off between gender equality and parental time with children- that by encouraging fathers to participate in parental leave we can distribute household responsibilities more equally and actually increase total time investments in children.