MPIDR Working Paper

Countries embracing maternal employment opened schools sooner after Covid-19 lockdowns

Nitsche, N., Hudde, A.
MPIDR Working Paper WP-2022-008, 58 pages.
Rostock, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (February 2022)
Paper is resubmitted to Social Forces, we would still like to publish this new version as working paper so that it is available
Open Access


The Covid-19-pandemic-related closure of schools has affected the majority of the world’s students and remains a contentious issue. Using data from the UNESCO school database, the ISSP 2012, and country-level panel regressions, we leverage simultaneous school closures during the first wave of Covid-19 lockdowns to estimate the effect of gender ideology on school reopening schedules. We show that societal gender ideology has likely influenced school reopening policies: i.e., that societies with more supportive attitudes toward maternal employment reopened schools significantly sooner, and at higher intensities, than societies with less supportive attitudes toward maternal employment, relative to other reopening measures, and net of infection rates. Our findings suggest a causal effect of gender ideological beliefs regarding pandemic-related school closure policies. We test and exclude a variety of potential confounders, such as a country’s maternal employment rate, GDP, social spending, and cultural values toward children. We argue that school closures may be perceived as less problematic in countries where more people support the ideal of a stay-at-home mother. Gender attitudes may thus represent a set of ideas that affect policy-makers’ decision-making via gender ideology normative framing or a potential gender ideology bias. However, the specific underlying mechanisms through which the gender ideology effect operates at the policy-maker level remain untested in our study, and should be investigated by future research.

The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.