A new paper titled Childhood Environment and Gender Gaps in Adulthood examines the relationship between childhood environment and gender gaps in economic well-being in adulthood. The findings indicate that males suffer greater economic consequences compared to females when exposed to poverty as children.
Among the paper’s authors are Raj Chetty and Nathaniel Hendren who are known for their research on the impacts of neighborhoods on intergenerational mobility and the effects of exposure to better neighborhoods on children (see Memo 5/11/2015).
Utilizing a dataset from a prior study on intergenerational mobility (see Memo 1/31/2014), the authors examined gender gaps in employment, earnings, and college attendance at age 30 for 10 million individuals born between 1980 and 1982. These factors were then assessed based on the incomes of the individuals’ parents and where these individuals lived when they were adolescents.
The study found that employment rates increase with parental incomes for both genders and that the increase was more pronounced for men. However, at the lowest income quintile, the trend was reversed, with men experiencing lower rates of employment than women. This was most apparent among men raised in single parent households. Men have higher earnings than women across the parent income distribution, but the difference was less pronounced in the lowest income quintile. Men were also less likely to attend college compared to women across the parent income distribution, with the greatest disparity observed among men from lower income families.
Gender gaps, particularly related to employment, varied significantly across geographic areas. Men who grew up in low-income families living in high-poverty, racially segregated areas as adolescents were significantly less likely to be formally employed as adults than their female peers. Higher crime rates were observed in these same geographies, leading the researchers to wonder if males growing up in these places are more likely to resort to criminal activities as a substitute for formal employment.
The authors conclude that growing up in a low-income, single parent household or in a neighborhood with high levels of economic and racial inequality has a disproportionately negative impact on males when they reach adulthood. The authors suggest these findings could shed new light on the recent decline of male participation in the U.S. workforce, which is often attributed to an aging population, an increased demand for highly skilled labor, and globalization.
Childhood Environment and Gender Gaps in Adulthood is available at http://bit.ly/1Po5IX8