The durability of that pattern makes a recent finding by economists at Harvard and Stanford universities all the more puzzling: Among the poor, the opposite is now true. Girls who grow up in poor families are more likely than the boys who grow up with them to work as adults."
The Washington Post
By: Emily Badger an Christopher Ingraham
THE REPORT: CHILDHOOD ENVIRONMENT AND GENDER GAPS IN ADULTHOOD
By Raj Chetty Nathaniel Hendren Frina Lin Jeremy Majerovitz Benjamin Scuderi of the National Bureau of Economic Research
"A long literature has documented significant differences between men and women in earnings, employment rates, and other outcomes in adulthood (e.g., Altonji and Blank 1999, Blau and Kahn 2000, Goldin, Katz and Kuziemko 2006, Goldin 2014). The most prominent explanations for these gender differences focus on factors affecting the labor market, such as occupational preferences, fertility patterns, and discrimination. A separate, more recent literature has shown that the effects of family background and childhood environment on child development – as measured by outcomes such as test scores, disruptive behavior, and high school graduation rates – also differ significantly by gender (Alexander, Entwisle and Olson 2007, DiPrete and Jennings 2012, Bertrand and Pan 2013, Autor and Wasserman 2013, Autor et al. 2015). This paper connects these two literatures by examining the role of family characteristics and childhood environment in shaping gender gaps in adulthood.
We document three facts using population tax records for children born in the 1980s. First, gender gaps in employment rates, earnings, and college attendance vary substantially with parent income and marital status. Notably, the traditional gender gap in employment rates is reversed for children growing up in poor families: boys in families in the bottom quintile of the income distri- bution are less likely to work than girls, especially when raised by single parents. Second, these gender differences vary substantially across the areas (counties or commuting zones) in which children grow up. Most of this variation reflects the causal impact of childhood exposure to neigh- borhoods rather than selection effects (Chetty and Hendren 2015). The variation in outcomes across places is largest for boys growing up in poor, single-parent families. Third, the spatial variation in gender differences is highly correlated with proxies for neighborhood disadvantage. Low-income boys who grow up in high-poverty, high-minority areas work less than girls. These areas also have higher rates of crime, consistent with a model in which boys with lower latent earnings potential who grow up in environments of concentrated poverty switch from the formal labor market to crime or other illicit activities. We conclude that gender gaps in adulthood have roots in childhood, perhaps because poverty and exposure to disadvantaged neighborhoods during childhood are particularly harmful for boys."
To read the complete report, please go to http://equality-of-opportunity.org/images/gender_paper.pdf