The H. Gregg Lewis prize for the best paper published in the Journal of Labor Economics during 2018-2019 has been awarded to Ankita Patnaik for “Reserving Time for Daddy: The Consequences of Fathers’ Quotas,” which appeared in the July 2019 issue of the Journal.

The Prize Committee consisted of Marianne Page (Chair), William Kerr, and Petra Todd.   The relationships between the division of household labor, formal child care, and the gender gap in wages have long been of interest to labor economists.  Patnaik’s study focuses on the potentially important role of fathers’ involvement in early child care, and the ways in which well-designed family leave policies might influence these relationships.  Previous studies have shown that a disproportionate amount of housework is done by women, and that this contributes to the gender pay gap. As a result, men’s involvement at home has received increasing public attention, and some countries have enacted family leave policies that incentivize father’s participation in parental leave.  Little is known, however, about what types of incentives will be most successful in getting parents to share leave more equally, or the long run impacts of successful short term policies might be.  

Patnaik leverages a natural experiment generated by the 2006 introduction of the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan to provide the first causal analysis of the short and longer term consequences of a policy aimed at promoting paternity leave.  This policy established a non-transferable right to five weeks of leave for fathers at the time of their child’s birth. Using both regression discontinuity and difference-in-differences designs that exploit the fact that other provinces did not make similar changes in their family leave policies, Patnaik finds that the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan was very effective.  Fathers’ leave claims increased by 53 percentage points, and fathers’ leave duration by 3 weeks. 

The committee was impressed with the author’s thorough analysis of a novel policy event, the employment of multiple methodological approaches, and her detailed exploration of mechanisms. What excited us most, however, was her follow up analysis with time-diary data, which shows that the policy induced increase in father’s leave taking had a persistent impact several years after the birth, shifting households more towards a dual-caregiver, dual-earner model. This is an important finding because it suggests that small changes in initial parenting experiences can have long-lasting effects on parent’s behavior and that there may not need to be a trade-off between gender equality in the labor market and parent investments in children.