Gender Gaps and Family Leaves in Latin America

Gender equality in the labor market remains a difficult challenge in Latin America and recent literature shows that child penalties play an important role in explaining these gaps. While policies to address gaps related to parenthood were introduced in recent decades, evidence of its effects is still scarce. This paper presents comparable evidence on the adoption of family leaves legislation in 15 Latin American countries and discusses its relationship with the evolution of the gender gaps in the labor market and the prevailing gender norms. We document that from 2000 to 2019 almost all countries increased the weeks covered by maternity, paternity, or parental leaves. Following a similar approach to that of Olivetti and Petrongolo (2017), we exploit the variations over time and control for country and year-fixed effects to study the relationship between the extension of family leaves and women’s outcomes. We find that these policies are successful in increasing female employment and reducing employment gaps in countries departing from a worse situation in terms of leave coverage or with more traditional perceptions of gender roles. On the other hand, for countries with more egalitarian gender perceptions, our results suggest that the extension of family leaves contributes to reduce the income gaps.