Education, Skills, and the Labour Market

The research group explores the formation and impact of skills. It focuses on family background, formal education, and on-the-job training as determinants of skill development, and investigates the role of skills for labour market success over workers’ careers. The group also examines the evolving demand for skills due to technological advancements and structural change.

Research Cluster
Productivity and Institutions

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Professor Dr Simon Wiederhold
Professor Dr Simon Wiederhold
Mitglied - Department Structural Change and Productivity
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Working Papers


Early Child Care, Maternal Labor Supply, and Gender Equality: A Randomized Controlled Trial?

Henning Hermes Marina Krauß Philipp Lergetporer Frauke Peter Simon Wiederhold

in: IWH Discussion Papers, No. 14, 2024


We provide experimental evidence that enabling access to universal early child care increases maternal labor supply and promotes gender equality among families with lower socioeconomic status (SES). Our intervention offers information and customized help with child care applications, leading to a boost in child care enrollment among lower-SES families. 18 months after the intervention, we find substantial increases in maternal full-time employment (+160%), maternal earnings (+22%), and household income (+10%). Intriguingly, the positive employment effects are not only driven by extended hours at child care centers, but also by an increase in care hours by fathers. Gender equality also benefits more broadly from better access to child care: The treatment improves a gender equality index that combines information on intra-household division of working hours, care hours, and earnings by 40% of a standard deviation, with significant increases in each dimension. For higher-SES families, we consistently observe negligible, insignificant treatment effects.

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Application Barriers and the Socioeconomic Gap in Child Care Enrollment

Henning Hermes Philipp Lergetporer Frauke Peter Simon Wiederhold

in: IWH Discussion Papers, No. 13, 2024


Why are children with lower socioeconomic status (SES) substantially less likely to be enrolled in child care? We study whether barriers in the application process work against lower-SES children — the group known to benefit strongest from child care enrollment. In an RCT in Germany with highly subsidized child care (N = 607), we offer treated families information and personal assistance for applications. We find substantial, equity-enhancing effects of the treatment, closing half of the large SES gap in child care enrollment. Increased enrollment for lower-SES families is likely driven by altered application knowledge and behavior. We discuss scalability of our intervention and derive policy implications for the design of universal child care programs.

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Does Information about Inequality and Discrimination in Early Child Care Affect Policy Preferences?

Henning Hermes Philipp Lergetporer Fabian Mierisch Guido Schwerdt Simon Wiederhold

in: IWH Discussion Papers, No. 2, 2024


We investigate public preferences for equity-enhancing policies in access to early child care, using a survey experiment with a representative sample of the German population (n ≈ 4, 800). We observe strong misperceptions about migrant-native inequalities in early child care that vary by respondents’ age and right-wing voting preferences. Randomly providing information about the actual extent of inequalities has a nuanced impact on the support for equity-enhancing policy reforms: it increases support for respondents who initially underestimated these inequalities, and tends to decrease support for those who initially overestimated them. This asymmetric effect leads to a more consensual policy view, substantially decreasing the polarization in policy support between under- and overestimators. Our results suggest that correcting misperceptions can align public policy preferences, potentially leading to less polarized debates about how to address inequalities and discrimination.

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Discrimination in Universal Social Programs? A Nationwide Field Experiment on Access to Child Care

Henning Hermes Philipp Lergetporer Fabian Mierisch Frauke Peter Simon Wiederhold

in: IWH Discussion Papers, No. 12, 2023


Although explicit discrimination in access to social programs is typically prohibited, more subtle forms of discrimination prior to the formal application process may still exist. Unveiling this phenomenon, we provide the first causal evidence of discrimination against migrants seeking child care. We send emails from fictitious parents to > 18, 000 early child care centers across Germany, inquiring about slot availability and application procedures. Randomly varying names to signal migration background, we find that migrants receive 4.4 percentage points fewer responses. Replies to migrants contain fewer slot offers, provide less helpful content, and are less encouraging. Exploring mechanisms using three additional treatments, we show that discrimination is stronger against migrant boys. This finding suggests that anticipated higher effort required for migrants partly drives discrimination, which is also supported by additional survey and administrative data. Our results highlight that difficult-to-detect discrimination in the pre-application phase could hinder migrants’ access to universal social programs.

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