Public policies and child development

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Abstract: We study the effect of paternity leave extensions on child development. We conducted a survey of 5,000 households with children under age six in Spain, including ASQ questionnaires to measure several dimensions of child development. We exploit several paternity leave extensions that took place between 2017 and 2021 and follow a regression discontinuity design based on the date of birth of the child. We find that the extensions led to significant increases in the length of paternity leave  taken by fathers, without affecting that of mothers, thus increasing parenting time at very early ages. We also show that the increase in parental time did not translate into significant improvements in any of the dimensions of child development that we can measure. If anything, the longer extensions may have led to some deterioration in communication and problem-solving skills.

Keywords: child development, childcare, gender equality, paternity leave