Men who receive paternity leave want fewer children

A new study in Spain displays the powerful effects of empathy.

  • Men that take paid paternity leave in Spain are less likely to want more children in the future.
  • The study's authors believe that men become more aware of the overall costs of raising children.
  • Before the service was enacted, women spent 4.2 hours engaged in unpaid childcare labor compared to 1.3 hours by men.


The definition of family structure changes every generation. Though certain elements are rooted in biological elements, it is also a cultural phenomenon.

While the so-called "traditional" structure — husband and wife, with the man working and the woman staying home — has been fluid for decades, a new study in Spain reveals a potentially game-changing shift in how children are raised and whether or not they'll even be born.

In 2007, Spain introduced two weeks of paternity leave for fathers. Through that national program, qualified men were fully paid for their time off. It was so popular that in 2018 it was expanded to five weeks. Officials expect that duration to extend to 16 weeks by 2021.

Lídia Farré at the University of Barcelona, Spain, and Libertad González at Pompeu Fabra University, Spain, wanted to better understand the cultural effects of this shift in childbearing. Two interesting findings emerged. First, women re-entered the workforce more quickly after giving birth. There was a shift in men, too: They wanted fewer children.

While this is one study in one country, Spain is unique. Before paternity leave legislation was passed, men there wanted more children than women. This is in stark contrast to other European countries.

The benefits of paternity leave | The Economist

Fortunately for the researchers, they had two pools to research: Men that were eligible for paternity leave and those that were not. In the latter group, the desire for future children did not change. They were more likely to procreate sooner than men in the first group. The men that accepted paid paternity leave were 7 to 15 percent less likely to have another child.

The study's authors note that paternity leave helps level the playing field in the labor market. Women are more likely to be hired and promoted when employers are ensured they're going to return after childbirth. This was, in fact, one of the motivations behind the legislation in the first place.

Previous research in Spain from 2002-2003 found that women spent an average of 4.2 hours every day engaged in unpaid childcare labor. For men, that number was 1.3 hours. In such a structure, it shouldn't be surprising that men desired more children, even if the country is an outlier in that regard.

The Atlas/Eurobarometer

With paternity leave, the distribution of duties evened out. The authors note that men learned about the many costs associated with raising children, in terms of both money and time, which shifted their outlook of the future. They also write that men became focused on childcare quality over child quantity.

Or maybe men just realized how hard raising a child is.

In any case, we can't extrapolate too much from one study. It has long been pointed out that men are biologically motivated to bear as many children as possible (with as many women as possible) while women are generally the caretakers. Yet biology and culture have been in conflict for a long time. The family unit is one of the most profound examples of this dichotomy between genetic urges and social constructions.

This study highlights another essential component of our species: empathy. It's one thing to feel for someone else; quite another to live in their shoes. The latter always produces more empathic humans. As women gain prominence in the global workforce, the sharing of duties between sexes is becoming more equitable — in the office, yes, but also in the nursery. For the health of children and society, this is a positive step forward.

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The startup, founded by Google veterans, raised $940 million in February and has already been delivering groceries for Kroger around Houston. Partnering with the pizza juggernaut Domino's, which delivers close to 3 million pizzas a day, is another logical step for the expanding drone car business.

Kevin Vasconi of Domino's explained in a press release that they see these specially-designed robots as "a valuable partner in our autonomous vehicle journey," adding "The opportunity to bring our customers the choice of an unmanned delivery experience, and our operators an additional delivery solution during a busy store rush, is an important part of our autonomous vehicle testing."

How will they work exactly? Nuro explained in its own press release that this "opportunity to use Nuro's autonomous delivery" will be available for some of the customers who order online. Once they opt in, they'll be able to track the car via an app. When the vehicle gets to them, the customers will use a special PIN code to unlock the pizza compartment.

Nuro and its competitors Udelv and Robomart have been focusing specifically on developing such "last-mile product delivery" machines, reports Arstechnica. Their specially-made R1 vehicle is about half the size of a regular passenger car and doesn't offer any room for a driver. This makes it safer and lighter too, with less potential to cause harm in case of an accident. It also sticks to a fairly low speed of under 25 miles an hour and slams on the breaks at the first sign of trouble.

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For now, the cars are still tracked around the neighborhoods by human-driven vehicles, with monitors to make sure nothing goes haywire. But these "chase cars" should be phased out eventually, an important milestone in the evolution of your robot pizza drivers.

Check out how Nuro's vehicles work: