Incentives and inequalities in family and working life

Författare: Aino-Maija Aalto, Och

Sammanfattning av

Dissertation series


The likelihood of selecting into math-intensive field of study is the focus of essay I. Figure 1 (se PDF-file) depicts the share of women among those with a university STEM-degree in Sweden in year 2015 across cohorts 1965–1985. Women hold only about 30 percent of the STEM-degrees across generations. However there are notable variations: in biology there are more women than men whereas the share of women with a degree in IT is around 20 percent for the later cohorts. In my analysis
I focus on the selection into a math-intensive track in upper secondary
school and to a math-intensive field of study at university.

In essay II (co-authored with Eva Mörk, Anna Sjögren and Helena Svaleryd), we study whether access to high-quality childcare affects the health of children with unemployed parents. In earlier literature, the effects of childcare on educational outcomes have been studied more broadly but evidence on the effect on health is still scarce. To identify the effect of interest, we exploit time-variation in Swedish municipalities in their regulation of access to childcare to the children whose parents are unemployed. Since 2001 all municipalities have been obliged to offer childcare at least for 15 hours per week for these children. We study the effect of the access to childcare in the short run, around the reform year, by analysing the effect on any hospitalizations and specifically on respiratory, injury or infection related hospitalizations. Additionally, we study whether the access has effects when the children are aged 10–11. At this age the registers allow us to study also a less severe health measure of drug prescriptions.  We find hospitalizations due to infections to increase a year after the reform, for children aged four to five, and find that the effect is driven by children of low-educated mothers. For younger children, aged 2–3, we find no effects. For children aged 10–11, we however do not find access to childcare at an earlier age to have mattered for hospitalizations. For prescriptions at this age, we find that respiratory-related medication is increased for those who had no access to childcare at the time they were younger and experienced parental unemployment. Hence, our results suggest that access to childcare exposes children to risks of infections but that the need for medication is smaller for children who had access while experiencing parental unemployment.

In essay III I study the importance of a financial incentive, in the form of parental leave allowance, on mothers’ decision to stay at home instead of returning to work. To identify the causal effect of the incentive on the probability to work between or after a birth, I exploit a reform that changed the basis of the allowance in Finland. The reform made it possible to regain the right for the same level of parental leave allowance as with the previous child, without needing to return to work, if the next child is born within three years. With respect to the implementation date of the reform, the timing of the first child defines whether a parent can become eligible for the reform or not. I use regression discontinuity design to study whether the allowance level matter for mothers’ decision to stay at home or return to work between births and whether this decision affects their long run labour market attachment. I find that the mothers decreased their labour market participation between births by three months but there are no effects on the labour market participation after five years of giving birth to the first child. Hence, it seems that the increased parental leave benefit has a short term effect on mothers’ labour market participation but this impact does not affect the participation in the long run.