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Headstrong Girls and Dependent Boys: Gender Differences in the Labor Market Returns to Child Behavior (WP-21-50)

Robert Kaestner and Ofer Malamud

The authors use data from the Children of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (C-NLSY79) to examine gender differences in the associations between child behavioral problems and early adult earnings. They find large and significant earnings penalties for women who exhibited more headstrong behavior and for men who exhibited more dependent behavior as children. In contrast, there are no penalties for men who were headstrong or for women who were dependent. While other child behavioral problems are also associated with labor market earnings, their associations are not significantly different by gender. The gender differences in headstrong and dependent behavior are not explained by education, marriage, depression, self-esteem, health, or adult personality traits. However, one potential explanation is that these gender differences are a consequence of deviations from gender norms and stereotypes in the workplace.

This paper is published in ILR Review.

Robert Kaestner, Research Professor, Harris School of Public Policy, University of Chicago

Ofer Malamud, Associate Professor of Human Development and Social Policy and IPR Fellow, Northwestern University

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