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The Determinants of Fathers’ Parental Leave Use

The use of parental leave by fathers notably varies between countries. However, the underlying reasons for cross-country differences have not been explicitly studied. In a recent article, researchers Eleonora Mussino, Jussi Tervola and Ann-Zofie Duvander used migration between Finland and Sweden as an instrument to deconstruct the roles of policy design and social norms in the differences in take-up rates between these two countries. This setting is used because migration flows between Finland and Sweden are high, and even if the societies are similar in many ways, differences regarding family policy and gender attitudes exist.

The authors paid special attention to the fathers’ ages at migration to estimate if the fathers underwent their gender socialization process in Finland or Sweden. Moreover, they compared different combinations of fathers’ and mothers’ origins to see the effects of spousal origin and norms. They found that the migration age seems to explain the fathers’ parental leave use. This implies the role of socialization and gender norms.

But overall, the destination country seemed to play a more decisive role. This was demonstrated by the finding that even for fathers who migrated at later ages, the use of leave most closely resembled the native-born level in their current country of residence, rather than in their country of origin. Finnish-born men in Sweden use parental leave at quite similar rates to native-born Swedes. Likewise, the use of leave among Swedish-born men in Finland was aligned with that among native-born Finns in Finland. This result implies the role of context-specific issues such as policies.

Altogether, large cross-country differences in fathers’ use of parental leave between the two countries seem to mainly stem from differences in policy design or other context-specific issues such as peer effects. Norms seem to play a smaller, but still significant role.

Author(s) of the original publication: 
Writer: 
Isabel Robles Salgado