Research seminar: Oh Mother: The Neglected Impact of School Disruptions

Alexander Willén, NHH
22 January 2019
11:45 - 12:45
Auditorium, SSB, Akersveien 26



Alexander Willén, NHH: https://www.alexanderwillen.com/

Alexander Willén is an Assistant Professor of Economics at the Norwegian School of Economics. His research focuses on topics that lie at the intersection of education economics, labor economics, and public economics. 

He holds a Ph.D. in Policy Analysis from Cornell University, a MPP in Public Policy from Georgetown University and a BA from Durham University.


“Oh Mother: The Neglected Impact of School Disruptions”

Abstract: Temporary school closures (TSCs) caused by unforeseeable circumstances such as bad weather, loss of utility services, or teacher industrial action, occur regularly across the globe. These abrupt and unexpected events disrupt core childcare arrangements and may have adverse and long-lasting effects on parental labor market behavior. This paper provides the first detailed analysis on this question, exploiting primary school teacher strikes in Argentina as an instrument for TSCs. Specifically, we use variation in teacher strikes within and across provinces over time between parents with and without primary school children in a dose-response triple difference framework. We show that mothers respond to TSCs by dropping out of the labor force and that this translates into an economically meaningful reduction in labor earnings: being exposed to 10 days of TSCs leads to a decline in monthly labor earnings equivalent to 2.92% of the mean. These effects persist even 3 years after the TSC and are particularly pronounced among lower-skilled mothers and mothers in dual-income households, both facing a relatively low opportunity cost of dropping out of the labor force. Although we do not find any effects among fathers in general, fathers with lower predicted earnings than their spouses also experience negative labor market effects. While this suggests that the parental response to TSCs depend on the relative income of each parent, this group of households is very small, such that mothers are disproportionally hurt by TSCs. Finally, we show that certain parents respond to TSCs by transferring their children to private school where strikes do not occur. The availability of alternative care options may therefore mute some of the adverse effects of TSCs on parental labor supply. However, we show that this may come at the expense of increased socioeconomic school segregation.

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