Research by Henrik Kleven, Camille Landais and Gabriel Leite Mariante

Child Penalty Atlas

READING TIME 4 minutes


Despite significant convergence in labour market outcomes between men and women over the past century, substantial differences between men and women’s wages, earnings and employment remain in virtually all countries (Kleven & Landais, 2017).

Recent research findings show that an increasingly large share of the remaining gaps come from the differential impact of parenthood on men and women – the so called “child penalty”, borne disproportionately by mothers. In Denmark, for example, the share of gender inequality in earnings that can be attributed to parenthood rose from about 40% in 1980 to more than 80% in 2013. The arrival of a child is associated with a long-term reduction of 20% in earnings and 13% in labour market participation of mothers, when compared to fathers. (Kleven et al, 2019a).

Despite recent progress in research on gender inequality, relatively little is known on how child penalties compare across countries, how they evolve with economic development, and what are their main underlying causes. Current methods used to study child penalties require extensive panel data with detailed labour market information, which is only available for a small number of highly developed countries (as in Kleven et al, 2019b), limiting the scope of current knowledge on the topic.

Large share of the remaining gaps come from the differential impact of parenthood on men and women – the so called “child penalty”, borne disproportionately by mothers

Our contribution

This project aims to construct an atlas of child penalties, documenting the effect of parenthood on gender inequality across a large number of countries. We document geographical patterns, study their root causes, and shed light on how child penalties evolve across the path of development.

We overcome the current limitations in the literature through two fundamental contributions:

  1. A methodological innovation, that allows for the calculation of child penalties from cross-sectional data, such as household surveys, without the need for extensive administrative panels. This greatly expands the set of countries for which child penalties can be calculated.
  2. A unique data collection effort, that puts together and harmonises individual-level data for 120 countries coming from a variety of underlying sources

Figure 1: Data coverage for the child penalty atlas

Results will be available and disseminated very soon.


Kleven, H., & Landais, C. (2017). Gender inequality and economic development: fertility, education and norms. Economica, 84(334), 180-209.

Kleven, H., Landais, C., & Søgaard, J. E. (2019a). Children and gender inequality: Evidence from Denmark. American Economic Journal: Applied Economics11(4), 181-209.

Kleven, H., Landais, C., Posch, J., Steinhauer, A., & Zweimüller, J. (2019b, May). Child penalties across countries: Evidence and explanations. In AEA Papers and Proceedings (Vol. 109, pp. 122-26).