Does Paternity Leave Promote Gender Equality within Households?


Our theory predicts that paternity leave (PL) has heterogeneous effects for low, intermediate, and high wage-gap couples, such that a quota for fathers can break traditional specialization agreements in intermediate-gap couples. Using Spanish data and a regression discontinuity design, we first identify the three groups using the model’s predictions regarding PL effects on fathers’ leave length. Then we test our model’s predictions on a range of outcomes. We don’t find systematic effects of a paternity leave expansion on low- or high- gap couples, while we document that, among intermediate-gap couples, the two-week PL introduced in Spain in 2007 led to a 3 percentage-point drop in couples having another child, a 4 percentage-point increase in couples getting divorced, a persistent increase in fathers’ housework and childcare time of more than an hour per day each, and an increase of 8 percentage points in maternal employment two years after childbirth.