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Profesores Principal
Raquel Bernal
Documentos de trabajo
  • Documentos de trabajo

Parental Leave Policies, Welfare and the Distribution of Income with Anna Fruttero



Journal of Population Economics 21: 779-825, 2008.

This paper uses a general equilibrium model of marriage and divorce to assess how public policies on maternity and paternity leave and leave benefits affect intra-household decision making, family structure, intergenerational mobility and the distribution of income. We calibrated our model to replicate some characteristics relevant to the interaction between the marriage and labor market. We start with a benchmark economy in which women take time off with their children. We then analyze how this economy is affected by three different parental leave policies: availability of paternity leave, paid maternity leave benefits and paid paternity and maternity leave benefits.

Quasi-Structural Estimation of a Model of Child Care Choices and Child Cognitive Ability Production with Michael Keane (Journal of Econometrics, vol 156(1), May 2010)



This paper evaluates the effects of maternal vs. alternative care providers time inputs on children s cognitive development using the sample of single mothers in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. To deal with the selection problem created by unobserved heterogeneity of mothers and children, we develop a model of mother s employment and child-care decisions. Guided by this model, we obtain approximate decisions rules for employment and child care use, and estimate these jointly with the child s cognitive ability production function, an approach we refer to as quasi-structural. This joint estimation implements a selection correction.

To help identify our selection model, we take advantage of the substantial and plausibly exogenous variation in employment and child-care choices of single mothers generated by the variation in welfare rules across states and over time, especially, the large changes created by the 1996 welfare reform legislation and earlier State waivers. Welfare rules provide natural exclusion restrictions, as it is plausible they enter decision rules for employment and day care use, while not entering the child cognitive ability production function directly. 

Our results imply that if a mother works full-time, while placing a child in day care, for one full year, it reduces the child s cognitive ability test score by roughly 2.7 percent on average, which is 0.14 standard deviations of the score distribution. However, we find evidence of substantial observed and unobserved heterogeneity in the day care effect. Negative effects of day care on test scores are larger for better-educated mothers and for children with larger skill endowments. 

The Effect of Maternal Employment and Child Care on Children s Cognitive Development, International Economic Review, Vol. 49 No. 4, pp. 1173-1209



Forthcoming International Economic Review.

This paper develops and estimates a dynamic model of employment and child care decisions of women after childbirth in order to evaluate the effects of maternal employment and daycare choices on children s cognitive ability. We use data from the NLSY to estimate the model. Results indicate that the effects of maternal employment and child care on children s ability are negative and rather sizable. In fact, having a full-time working mother who uses child care during one of the first five years after childbirth is associated with a 1.8 percent reduction in the child s test scores. Based on the estimates of the model, we assess the impact of policies related to parental leave, child care and other incentives to stay at home after childbirth on women s decisions and children s outcomes.

The Informal Labor Market in Colombia: Identification and Characterization, Desarrollo y Sociedad, Número 63, 2009.



In this paper, we study the extent and nature of informality in Colombia by using a new chapter on informality in the Encuesta Continua de Hogares (ECH) from August 2006 to December 2006. This chapter includes new questions deepening the information on coverage of social protection benefits, labor market trajectories, and motivations for sector of employment. Crucially, the availability of these new data allows us to measure informality in several ways and understand the differences and implications of using various definitions.

We then study the nature of informality in Colombia. In particular, we characterize informal workers in various dimensions that include socio-demographic characteristics, characteristics of the firm and job satisfaction measures. The main objective is to understand what types of individuals belong to formal and informal sectors, study the incentives and motivations of workers for belonging to one or other segment of the labor market (broadly defined in terms of informality), and analyze the consequences of not being covered by the regulatory framework. In doing this, we hope to gain some understanding about how different policy interventions could influence individuals’ occupation choices and workers’ well-being.

Child Care Choices and Children's Cognitive Achievement: The Case of Single Mothers with Michael Keane (Forthcoming Journal of Labor Economics, 2011)



We evaluate the effects of home inputs on children's cognitive development using the sample of single mothers from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY). Important selection problems arise when trying to assess the impact of maternal time and income on children's development. To deal with this, we exploit the (plausibly) exogenous variation in employment and child care use by single mothers generated by differences in welfare regulations across States and over time. In particular, the 1996 Welfare Reform, and earlier State policy changes adopted under federal waivers, generated substantial increases in work and child care use. Thus, we construct a comprehensive set of welfare policy variables at the individual and State level, and use them as instruments to estimate child cognitive ability production functions. We use local demand conditions as instruments as well. 

Our results indicate that a year of childcare reduces child test scores by 2.1% (.114 standard deviations). This estimate is quite robust across a wide range of specifications and instrument sets. But we find important interactions with type of care, maternal education and child gender. Indeed, only informal care leads to significant reductions in cognitive outcomes. Formal center-based care does not have any adverse effect. In addition, the value of the maternal time input is greater for more educated mothers, and girls are more adversely affect by childcare than boys.

Child Care Choices and Children's Cognitive Achievement: The Case of Single Mothers - Web Appendix



Web appendices to accompany "Child Care Choices and Children's Cognitive Achievement: The Case of Single Mothers".

Child Adoption in the United States: Historical Trends and the Determinants of Adoption Demand and Supply, 1951-2000

with Luojia Hu, Chiaki Moriguchi, Eva Nagypal.

Marriage vs. Cohabitation: The Effects on Children's Well-being. El Trimestre Económico, vol LXXIX (3), no. 315, July-Sept. 2012.

In this paper we evaluate whether there are differences in adult and child outcomes between cohabiting and married households, once differences in observed characteristics are controlled for and possible endogeneity biases due to selection issues are taken into account by using an instrumental variables estimator. We use a variety of Colombian data sources that contain a wealth of data on children’s outcome measures. We find that cohabiting households are worse off in various dimensions including ownership of durable goods and child outcomes. In addition, we attempt to understand the reasons why these differences arise and find evidence that cohabiting households exhibit less stable and forward looking behaviors, are characterized by less risk sharing and specialization, and exhibit less healthy behaviors and different childrearing practices.

Subsidized child care and child development in Colombia: Effects of Hogares Comunitarios de Bienestar as a function of timing and length of exposure. Social Sciences & Medicine 97(2013) 241-249.


Rigorous evidence regarding the impact of early care and education on children’s development comes primarily from high-income nations. A few studies from Latin America and the Caribbean have identified benefits of conditional cash transfer and home visiting programs on children’s development. However, there is still controversy around the impact and cost-effectiveness of childcare approaches. Further research is needed to understand how scaled-up childcare settings may support the development of low-income children in Latin America.

To that end, the present study sought to identify the effects of exposure to a subsidized childcare program in Colombia on children’s nutritional status, cognitive and socioemotional development. This community-based program, known as Hogares Comunitarios de Bienestar (HCB), serves 800 thousand low-income children under age 6, delivering home-based childcare, supplementary nutrition, and psychosocial stimulation. We compared beneficiary children who had been in the program for long time with beneficiary children who had been in the program for a month or less, by age group, to estimate program exposure effects. To correct for self-selection into different exposure levels, we used a matching estimator.

Results indicated that cognitive development improved 0.15 to 0.3 of a standard deviation (SD) after at least 15 months of exposure for children between 3 and 6 years of age. Socioemotional skills improved 0.12 to 0.3 SD for children older than 3 after at least 15 months of program exposure. No significant gains were found for nutritional status. The estimated benefit-cost ratio ranged from 1.0 to 2.7, depending upon varying discount rates. Findings lend support for a potentially effective strategy to promote the development of low-income children in Colombia and other developing nations.

The Rise in Female Participation in Colombia: Fertility, Marital Status or Education? Ensayos de Política Económica, Banco de la República, Colombia (Forthcoming)

Colombia has experienced a secular increase in the labor participation of urban women, increasing from nearly 47% in 1984 to 65% in 2006. We decompose the evolution of participation into changes in the composition of the population and changes in the participation rates by groups (defined according to the variables that appear to be most relevant: educational attainment, fertility and marital status). The increase in participation is driven mostly by the increase in the participation rates of married or cohabiting women, and women with low educational attainment. Fertility status appears to be less important. Changes in the composition of the population by levels of educational attainment are also relevant in explaining the increase in labor participation. In contrast, changes in composition by marital status or fertility are second order effects.