The Impact of Austerity on Gender Inequality in Time Allocation in the United States

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060823-WP-The Impact of Austerity on Gender Inequality in Time Allocation in the United States-Sen

Anamika Sen, University of Massachusetts, Amherst


The Great Recession of 2007-2009 caused large declines in state revenues, prompting many states to implement austerity measures to meet their balanced budget requirements. Decreases in public spending can have heterogeneous gender effects due to existing inequalities in time allocated for unpaid work. In this paper, I combine data from the American Time Use Survey for 2005-2015 and the State and Local Expenditures database to investigate the relationship between decreases in state education spending and time spent on childcare. My analysis utilizes an event study approach to compare changes in time allocated for childcare activities by adults residing in states with and without spending reductions on K-12 and early education programs. Prior to the decreases in education spending, I find that time spent on childcare activities across austerity and non-austerity states trended similarly. However, in the years following the spending cuts, residents of austerity states were spending more time on childcare relative to residents of non-austerity states. The increase in childcare in austerity states was unevenly distributed across genders. Men were allocating 1.8 additional hours weekly while women were allocating 3 additional hours weekly to childcare. I further document long-lasting implications for gender equality: effects on the gender gap in childcare time persist even six years after the initial reduction in education spending. My findings suggest the need for gender budgeting at all stages of the fiscal budget cycle so that governments can pursue economic and social goals even during times of crisis.


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