Part 1 of this 4-part series introduced the nation's first paid family policy (CA-PFL). Part 2 discussed the paternal son-preferences (for instance, fathers were more likely to take additional paid family leave when they had sons, but not when they had daughters) and offered possible explanations for this behavior.
Research also shows two other groups of men who took more family leave when CA-PFL became available. The first group are fathers who increased paternity leave for their first child (but not for subsequent children). Birth order matters for fathers but not for mothers, who take similar lengths of family leave for each child. It's possible that fathers take additional leave for the first child because they feel mothers need the most help caring for a first-born child, since both parents are inexperienced, so having the father at home may be especially beneficial. However, this doesn't seem to be the only reason, since we also see an increase in father-only (mother returns to work) family leave among first-borns.
"An alternative theory," according to the study, " is that fathers want to be more involved with the care of their first child, but revert back to more traditional gender roles over time." Also, because CA-PFL does not include job protection during leave, fathers may feel pressure to return to work after the first child to in order to not jeopardize their employment.
Another group of fathers who take additional family leave are those who work in occupations with a high share of female workers. Men in occupations with more women may experience less stigma associated with taking leave, according to a study on men working in female dominated occupations. They are worried about other men's opinions of their non-traditional career and spend "considerable anxiety around the perceived reaction of male friends and acquaintances [if] disapproval and ridicule became evident." In contrast, women in female-dominated occupations are supportive of men in nurturing roles, which may increase the likelihood of men taking more family leave.
Female-dominated occupations are also more likely to offer flexible work policies, so fathers can more easily take leave because their work isn't centered around others' schedules. It could also be that men and women who are likely to take longer parental leave self-select into professions that they believe are more family-friendly because work can be done independently without needing to synchronize with colleagues or clients.
Even though both men and women suffer wage penalties for choosing flexible work practices, the effects are slightly smaller for men than they are for women. Also, some women without children do suffer wage penalties for choosing flexibility, leading researchers to believe that it is workplace behavior (flex-time, remote work) and not parental status that causes the wage depression.
Empirical research has documented the existence of a child care wage penalty for workers regardless of gender. Flexible work practices and generous paid leave policies, such as CA-PFL, may allow new parents to spend more effort on child care than they might otherwise attempt and to the extent that they spend their energy on child care, their work productively would be lowered compared to employees without those responsibilities. If men believe in gender equality in the workplace, they first have to practice gender equality in the home: It is by assuming equal responsibility for childcare, beginning with paternity leave, that men will do the most to help women succeed.