Caring, Sharing and Childbearing – Essays on Labor Supply, Infant Health and Family Policies

Author: Anna Norén, And

Summary of

Dissertation series


Essay I

I study the consequences on labor market outcomes and sick leave of having an elderly parent in need of care. Caring for an elderly parent may be associated with opportunity costs such as productivity loss on the labor market if informal caregivers are of working age. Using Swedish register data I compare the labor market outcome trajectories of adult children before and after their parent suffer a health shock. I find that employment and income of adult children are slightly reduced in the years leading up to the demise of their parent, but that the size of the impact is largest in the year, and the year after, parental demise. I also find that daughter's sick leave absence increases in the year that the parent dies. No effects on labor market outcomes are found from having a parent suffering stroke. Furthermore, I find no clear gender differences between sons and daughters in the impact of having a parent with increased care demand. Taken together, the results suggest that the opportunity costs of parental care need in the form of adverse labor market impacts are small.

Essay II

with Erik Grönqvist, Anna Sjögren and Helena Svaleryd

A large body of research documents the importance of early life conditions for the health and human capital formation of children. The detrimental effects of alcohol exposure in utero are well documented, and therefore identifying effective methods for preventing harmful maternal alcohol consumption is of great importance. We exploit the stepwise introduction of alcohol screening and brief interventions at Swedish antenatal clinics, to evaluate the causal effect of enhanced alcohol prevention on infant health using a difference-in-differences strategy. We find that the program improves infant health measured by prescription of pharmaceutical drugs and hospitalizations during the child’s first year of life. The results suggest that effects are likely driven by changes in maternal behavior after the first trimester and seem to extend beyond the birth of the child.

Essay III

with Erik Grönqvist, Anna Sjögren and Helena Svaleryd

This study examines the effects of targeted preventive interventions for pregnant women with elevated alcohol risk on infant health and maternal behavior. The detrimental effects of alcohol exposure in utero are well documented and universal alcohol prevention programs are an important part of national strategies to promote maternal and child health. Identifying effective interventions to prevent harmful maternal alcohol consumption is of great importance. We exploit the discrete nature in the decision rule to provide an alcohol preventive intervention to mothers at risk in a regression discontinuity design. The results suggest that the intervention has negligible impact on birth weight and small effects on the gestational age. We are unable to determine if this is due to a low effectiveness of the intervention or due to a low take up of the intervention.

Essay IV

Despite several policies aimed at increasing fathers’ participation in the caring of children, Swedish mothers still use the bulk of the paid parental leave which may have several negative consequences for the family e.g. in terms of weaker labor market attachment for the mother. Division of parental leave is likely affected by how parents value the costs associated with parental leave. I investigate whether a reduction in the care burden, or a decreased nonmonetary cost, of parental leave through the availability of childcare for older siblings affects how the leave is divided. The effect of access to childcare is evaluated by utilizing the regional heterogeneity of the implementation of a childcare reform in Sweden in 2002 that gave children of parents on parental leave with a younger sibling the right to stay in childcare. Results suggest that availability of childcare for an older sibling during parental leave does not impact the division of parental leave between mothers and fathers.