July 2022

IZA DP No. 15453: Female Labor Market Opportunities and Gender Gaps in Aspirations

published in: Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, 2023, 211, 165-187

Aspirations and plans for the future can influence investments made today. Gender gaps in these views can perpetuate gender gaps in outcomes. In this paper, we explore how gender gaps in aspirations and expectations are affected by the local labor market. Using a national longitudinal survey from Japan, we begin by documenting large gender differences in adolescents’ own thoughts about their future educational attainment, occupation, marriage, and fertility, as well as parental aspirations for their child’s future. We then show that these gender gaps – specifically, boys planning for higher educational attainment as well as later marriage and fertility – are significantly smaller in municipalities with higher female labor force participation. Consistent with this, we also find that female labor force participation increases parental investments in girls relative to boys. We detect similar patterns when examining realized outcomes at age 19.