Study Shows After Men Got Paid Paternity Leave They Wanted Fewer Kids

by Cassandra Stone
Originally Published: 

Fathers in Spain were less likely to want more kids after staying home with them on leave

About 12 years ago, Spain introduced a new national policy — two weeks of fully paid paternity leave. As of 2018, it’s up to five paid weeks. Economists who have studied the initial policy have come to the conclusion that men who have taken paternity leave are less likely to have more kids in the future. Because, as moms everywhere know, staying home with kids is hard AF.

One great thing the policy in Spain resulted in was dads who are more hands-on, active participants in childcare. What it also ended up doing was helping dads realize how freaking hard being a stay-at-home parent is, no matter how long or short your tenure is.

In a study recently published in the Journal of Public Economics, economists estimated that after two years of the program’s implementation, parents who had been eligible for paid leave were 7%-15% less likely to have more children than parents who had just missed the eligibility cutoff and maintained their current work schedule without leave.

Part of the research into the dads of Spain realizing paternity leave is hard included a survey. It showed the dads desired fewer children than before the program launched. The economists performing the study, Lídia Farré of the University of Barcelona and Libertad González of University of Pompeu Fabra, believe that spending more time with their children led fathers to shift their preferences to “child quantity to quality.”

The costs associated with childrearing also play a role, the economists found. The global financial crisis impacted Spain about a year after the paternity leave program began, for instance. Which could easily impact any family’s decision to add to their brood.

While no amount of research can determine every single father’s reasoning behind wanting to procreate less than perhaps originally intended, you can’t ignore the fact that having fathers at home more drastically changes the dynamic of a family.

Interestingly, around the same time dads in Spain were tapping out on the idea of more children — it had the opposite effect on women. They started showing preferences for slightly larger families, which is more than likely a sign that having more kids was desirable because there was a balance of power and labor at home.

No one can say for sure whether this type of impact could be felt in other countries around the world, but wouldn’t it be nice to be able to determine that for ourselves? If only paid leave — maternity or paternity — were a given in the United States, perhaps women wouldn’t be breaking under the burden of all that emotional labor.

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