DP15752 Women's Education, Fertility and Children's Health during a Gender Equalization Process: Evidence from a Child Labor Reform in Spain

Author(s): Cristina Bellés-Obrero, Antonio Cabrales, Sergi Jimenez-Martin, Judit Vall-Castello
Publication Date: February 2021
Keyword(s): Education, Fertility, gender equalization, Infant health
JEL(s): I12, I25, J13, J81
Programme Areas: Labour Economics, Public Economics
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=15752

We study the effect of women's education on fertility and children's health during a period of gender equalization and women's greater access to economic opportunities. In 1980, Spain raised the minimum working age from 14 to 16, while compulsory education age remained at 14. This reform changed the within-cohort incentives to remain in the educational system. Using a difference-in-differences approach, we find that the reform delayed fertility but did not impact completed fertility of affected women. We also show that the reform was detrimental for the health of the children's of affected mothers at delivery. We document two channels for this negative effect: the postponement in the entrance of motherhood and the deterioration of women's health habits (such as smoking and drinking). This last channel is a direct effect of the gender equalization process. However, in the medium run, these more educated mothers are able to reverse the negative health shocks at birth through maternal vigilance and investment in their children's health habits.