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Care for Sick Children as a Proxy for Gender Equality in the Family


Swedish parents are entitled to government paid benefits to take care of sick children. In this paper we show that the gender distribution of paid care for sick children is a good proxy for the gender division of household work. Using two examples we show that registry data on care for sick children is a useful data source for studies on gender equality in the family. Our first example shows that increased effort at work leads to a lower effort in household work, and a higher effort at home for the other spouse. Our second example provides some evidence for a pro-cyclical pattern in gender equality.

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Fig. 2


  1. 1.

    For more detailed information on the Level of Living survey, see Erikson and Åberg (1987); Gähler (2004).

  2. 2.

    Evertsson and Nermo (2007) performed a panel study of low frequency using survey data from LNU 1991 and 2000.

  3. 3.

    For many variables we have data over a longer time span.

  4. 4.

    See Ekberg et al. (2005).

  5. 5.

    Source: Statistics Sweden.

  6. 6.

    A revealed preference does not say anything of why this difference exists, be it due to social constraints like gender roles, or something else. The important thing here is that regardless of the cause of this gender difference in preferences, the bargaining outcome will be affected by it.


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We are indebted to one anonymous reviewer for valuable comments and suggestions. We also wish to thank the Swedish council for working life and social research (FAS) for financial support.

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Correspondence to Magnus Nermo.

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Eriksson, R., Nermo, M. Care for Sick Children as a Proxy for Gender Equality in the Family. Soc Indic Res 97, 341–356 (2010).

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  • Gender equality
  • Time use
  • Household work
  • Unemployment
  • Business cycles