Trends over Time in His and Her Earnings Following Parenthood in Sweden

Ann-Zofie Duvander, Demography Unit, Department of Sociology, Stockholm University
Sunnee Billingsley, Stockholm University
Kelly Musick, Cornell University
Anna-Karin Nylin, Department of Sociology, Stockholm University
Marie Evertsson, Swedish Institute of Social Research, Stockholm University

Swedish women have improved their labor market position over time, and women’s earnings today are a substantive part of family income. However, women still take the greater part of domestic responsibilities. Becoming a parent is a critical moment when mothers reduce their paid work hours, leading to widening earnings differentials between partners. Given significant changes in labor market opportunities and gender ideologies, this study asks whether men and women’s employment responses to childbirth have become more symmetrical over time. To date, little work has addressed trends across cohorts and trends over time within couples. This study contributes to closing that gap, expanding our understanding of how couples negotiate roles following childbirth. Further, we explore potential differences in how change has evolved among subgroups of the population, in particular, among couples with different socio-economic backgrounds. With the unparalleled resource of Swedish register data, we follow couples who have had their first child during 1985–2007 and map their earnings trajectories starting 2 years prior to birth and up to 8 years after.

Swedish women have improved their labor market position over time, and women’s earnings today are a substantive part of family income. However, women still take the greater part of domestic responsibilities and becoming a parent is a critical moment for their earnings trajectories. Earlier research show that women and men’s wages develop differently after becoming parents. Women’s wages decrease in response to childbirth and then stagnates while men’s wages continue to increase over time resulting in widening wage gaps between women and men (see Duvander et al., 2015, and Angelov et al., 2016). This shows how gender shapes the transition to parenthood, but research on trends across cohorts in couples’ earnings trajectories following parenthood is lacking. Also, to date, little work has addressed trends over time within couples. This study contributes to closing that gap, expanding our understanding of how couples negotiate roles following childbirth.

Our study is informed by theories on gender and family change. Key principles of life course theory, namely the concepts of linked lives, life span development, and socio-historical context (Elder, 1996) provide a basis for understanding couple-level processes and their evolution within partnerships and over time. We also rely on theorization on the growing importance of gender equality and collaboration between partners (Goldscheider et al., 2015). Further, by considering family policy, labor markets and normative contexts in relation to changing family responses, we take the important role of institutions into account (Neyer & Andersson, 2008). Against the backdrop of significant changes in gender ideologies, labor market opportunities, and work-family constraints, we expect that couple-level negotiations following parenthood have changed. The theoretical perspectives point to the following hypothesis:

The earnings of coupled mothers and fathers following childbirth have become more symmetrical over time.

With the unparalleled resource of Swedish register data we use information on individuals’ labor earnings as well as basic demographic information and construct a sample of couples who have had their first child between 1985 and 2007. We map their earnings trajectories starting 2 years prior to birth and up to 8 years after (or a minimum of 5 years after for the most recent cohorts). Having data on the full population in the Swedish registers allow us to document fine-grained differences in the pace and magnitude of change over time. Further, we explore potential differences in how change has evolved among subgroups of the population, in particular, among couples with different socio-economic backgrounds. Our main analyses censor couples who separate and we will test the sensitivity of our results to different window lengths around the time of first birth. In particular, we will compare results for couples based on a shorter time period following birth to minimize attrition via parental separation. Our study will extend and develop life course research assessing the “critical moment” of childbirth for partner’s work and earnings trajectories. This study will be among the first to address the career consequences of parenthood from a couple perspective. Results are currently being prepared.

References

Angelov, N., Johansson, P., & Lindahl, E. (2016). Parenthood and the Gender Gap in Pay. Journal of Labor Economics 34(3):545-579.

Duvander, A.Z., Ferrarini, T. and Johansson, M. 2015. Familjepolitik för alla? En ESO-rapport om föräldrapenning och jämställdhet. Regeringskansliet. Stockholm.

Elder, G.H., Jr. 1996. Human Lives in Changing Societies: Life Course and Developmental Insights. In R.B. Cairns, G.H. Elder, Jr., and E.J. Costello (eds.), Developmental Science. Cambridge Studies in Social and Emotional Development. Cambridge University Press.

Goldscheider, F., Bernhardt, E., & Lappegård, T. (2015). The Gender Revolution: A Theoretical Framework for Understanding New Family-Demographic Behavior. Population and Development Review.

Neyer, G. & Andersson, G. 2008. Consequences of Family Policies on Childbearing Behavior: Effects or Artifacts? Population and Development Review 34:699-724.

Presented in Session 1097: Families and Households