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Bartos, Vojtech; Pertold-Gebicka, Barbara (2018): Parental leave length, social norms, and female labor market re-entry frictions. In: International Journal of Manpower, Vol. 39, No. 4: pp. 600-620
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Abstract

Purpose The purpose of this paper is to identify the role of employers in creating employment gaps among women returning to the labor market after parental leaves of different durations. Design/methodology/approach The authors use a controlled correspondence field experiment that orthogonally manipulates parental leave length and the quality of fictitious female job candidates. The experiment is complemented with a survey among human resource managers. Findings High-quality candidates receive more interview invitations when applying after a short parental leave, while low-quality (LQ) candidates receive more interview invitations when applying after a typical three years long parental leave. Survey results suggest that the difference in invitations between short and typical leave treatments is driven by a social norm that mothers should stay home with children younger than three. Productivity gains from employing a LQ job applicant with a shorter career break might not be high enough to outweigh the adverse social norm effect. Social implications The presented results point toward the strong effect of prevailing social norms on job search prospects of women returning to the labor market after parental leave. Originality/value A correspondence experiment has not been used before to study the relationship between time spent on leave and the labor market prospects of mothers. It also extends research on social norms to the domain of hiring decisions.