European Journal of Population

, Volume 30, Issue 4, pp 369–390 | Cite as

The Effect of Grandparental Support on Mothers’ Labour Market Participation: An Instrumental Variable Approach

  • Bruno Arpino
  • Chiara D. Pronzato
  • Lara P. Tavares


Childcare arrangements are key in women’s ability to juggle motherhood and work outside the home. As such, the study of access to childcare and its use is of great policy relevance. We focus on a particular kind of informal childcare, the one provided by grandparents. Empirically, assessing the effect of grandparental childcare is not an easy task due to unobserved preferences. In light of the potential outcome framework, we interpret the biases resulting from unobserved preferences as arising from the non-compliance of mothers to the availability of grandparents and from preferences of grandparents for activities other than childcare. Using an instrumental variable approach on Italian data, we find that the effect of grandparental childcare on mothers’ labour supply is positive, statistically significant and economically relevant. The effect is stronger for less educated mothers, with young children and living in northern and central Italy.


Female labour market participation Grandparental childcare Intergenerational transfers Instrumental variables Unobserved preferences 



The research leading to these results received funding from the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013)/ERC Grant Agreement No. 201194-CODEC, which is gratefully acknowledged. ERC had no involvment in the study design, in the collection, analysis and interpretation of data, in the writing of the paper nor in the decision to submit the paper for publication. Our thanks go also to Arnstein Aassve, Fabrizia Mealli, Steve Pudney, Andrea Salvatori, to the editor Dimiter Philipov, and to two anonymous referees for useful comments on previous versions of the paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bruno Arpino
    • 1
  • Chiara D. Pronzato
    • 2
    • 3
    • 5
  • Lara P. Tavares
    • 4
    • 5
    • 6
  1. 1.Department of Political and Social Sciences and Research and Expertise Centre on Survey Methodology (RECSM)Universitat Pompeu FabraBarcelonaSpain
  2. 2.Department of Economics and StatisticsUniversity of TurinTurinItaly
  3. 3.CHILD Collegio Carlo AlbertoTurinItaly
  4. 4.Instituto Superior de Ciências Sociais e PolíticasUniversidade de LisboaLisbonPortugal
  5. 5.Carlo F. DONDENA Centre for Research on Social DynamicsBocconi UniversityMilanItaly
  6. 6.CESNOVA, Centro de Estudos de Sociologia da Universidade Nova de LisboaLisbonPortugal

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