Can childbirth affect attitudes towards gender norms?
After years of trying, my research was finally accepted for presentation at the prestigious Allied Social Sciences Association conference (ASSA) held in Chicago. Aligned with the current times, the meeting is virtual, so the trip to the ``windy'' city will have to wait till better conditions arise.
In a nutshell, the paper analyzes how childbearing (particularly the first child) affects attitudes towards traditional gender norms. Borrowing from Kuziemko et al (2018), the research interprets childbearing as an informational shock. Ex-ante people might overestimate their (and their partner's) ability to cope with the challenges that parenthood represents, and consequently display certain attitudes towards traditional norms. Ex-post, difficulties in maintaining work-life balance could lead people to reevaluate their assessment of norms to prevent cognitive dissonance.
To study the changes in attitudes, I use longitudinal data from a dozen countries. Arguably parents and non-parents are different both in terms of observed and unobserved characteristics, which implies that a comparison of outcomes would be biased. I address this selection issues using propensity score matching (selection on observable characteristics) and diff-in-diff (for unobservable time-invariant heterogeneity).
Estimates show that respondents tend to adopt more conservative attitudes concerning traditional gender roles, e.g. both parents indicate that having children is important for personal fulfillment, women are more likely to agree with statement that men should have a priority when jobs are scarce, and men are more likely to state that household work is just as fulfilling as work per pay (which given division of household chores is probably an inference on women's attitudes). Our findings do not support the `mighty' girl hypothesis, daughters do not promote more gender equal attitudes in fathers. Or at least not in their first years.
Heterogeneity tests add some flavor to this finding. Point estimates tend to be higher in Central and Eastern European countries (when compared to Western Europe - Austria, France and Germany), and also in countries where women are responsible for a larger share of household activities, as opposed to those where chores are shared within the household or outsourced. These results are consistent with the hypothesis of cognitive dissonance, as one would expect women to experience a greater shock in those countries than in countries with a more equal division of household roles.