April 2023

IZA DP No. 16055: Long-Term Effects of Recession on Parenthood Gender Inequality

Jinyoung Kim, Eunhye Kwak

This study identifies a new mechanism to account for the persistent gender differences in earnings after childbirth. Aside from women's voluntary wage cuts in pursuit of family-friendly job amenities, we claim that adverse labor market conditions at the time of childbearing widen the gender gap among parents. Employing the instrumental variable (IV) method against a large cross-sectional dataset from the US, we find that giving birth during a recession reduces mothers' earnings, whereas fathers remain mostly unaffected. The asymmetric impact of a recession at the time of childbirth persists for a long time and accounts for 30–40 percent of the after-childbirth gender gap in earnings. Unintended impacts of recession on parenthood gender gap leaves room for government intervention on women's career breaks.