Gendered parenthood-employment gaps in midlife: A demographic perspective across three different welfare systems

Number: 157
Year: 2023
Author(s): Angelo Lorenti; Jessica Nisen; Letizia Mencarini; Mikko Myrskylä

Women’s labor force participation has increased remarkably in western countries, but important gender gaps still remain, especially among parents. This paper uses a novel comparative perspective assessing women’s and men’s mid-life employment trajectories by parity and education. We provide new insight into the gendered parenthood penalty by analyzing the long-term implications, beyond the core childbearing ages by decomposing years lived between ages 40 to 74 into years in employment, inactivity, and retirement. We compare three countries with very different institutional settings and cultural norms: Finland, Italy, and the U.S. Our empirical approach uses the multistate incidence-based life table method. Our results document large cross-national variation, and the key role that education plays. In Finland years employed increase with parity for women and men and the gender gap is small; in the U.S. the relation between parity and years employed is relatively flat whereas among those with two or more children a gender gap emerges; and in Italy, years employed decreases sharply with parity for women, and increases for men. Education elevates years employed similarly for all groups in Finland; but in the U.S and Italy, highly educated mothers experience only half of the gender gap compared to low-educated mothers. The employment trajectories of childless women and men differ greatly across countries.  

Angelo Lorenti, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany.

Jessica Nisen, Invest Research Flagship, University of Turku, Turku, Finland.

Letizia Mencarini, Dondena Centre for Research on Social Dynamics and Public Policy and Department of Social and Political Sciences, Bocconi University, Milan, Italy.

Mikko Myrskylä, Department of Social Research, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland.

Language: English