Preferences or Constraints? Education, Gender, and Parenting Attitudes

Patrick Ishizuka, Princeton University

Social scientists have documented large and persistent differences in parenting behavior by education and by gender. These parenting differences, in turn, are associated with children’s academic achievement, and are theorized to contribute to gender inequality in parents’ labor market outcomes. While these parenting differences are well-established, an unresolved theoretical question is what causes them. Existing explanations are divided between preference- and constraint-based theories, with each implying different predictions about parenting attitudes. Using a vignette experiment with both open- and closed-ended questions, I test whether respondents differ by education in parenting attitudes, and whether respondents have different parenting attitudes about mothers and fathers. By improving our understanding of cultural models of good and bad parenting, this study aims to aid policymakers in developing parenting education, family engagement, and Responsible Fatherhood programs that take into account parents’ beliefs about appropriate parenting practices.

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 Presented in Session P1. Marriage, Unions, Families, and Households