Gender Differences in the Intended Use of Parental Leave: Implications for Human Capital Development

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Journal of Family and Economic Issues


This study examined gender differences in the intended use of parental leave benefits. In a targeted sample of relevant adult respondents (i.e., adults aged 25–45 who work full-time, plan to have children, and are in a financially stable marriage or domestic partnership; N =82), large gender differences were observed in work-related attitudes, intended leave, desired leave for spouse/partner, and intended use of time during mandatory parental leave. Despite men and women reporting similar attitudes towards caring for children and sharing equally in caregiving responsibilities, men consistently reported planning to take less time away from work for parental leave than women, and both men and women reported a desire for their partners to take leave periods differing in ways consistent with traditional gender roles. The structure of leave benefits was found to influence gender leave gaps, with paid leave tending to decrease the gap and longer leave availability tending to increase the gap. In mandatory leave scenarios, men were significantly more likely than women to report intentions to use mandatory leave for human capital development, such as taking on additional work, searching for new employment, catching up on projects for a current employer, learning new job-relevant skills, and exploring new business ideas. Implications regarding human capital development are discussed.