Gender Gap and Retirement Decisions: the Maternity Pension Supplement in Spain

Economics master project by Jorge Casanova, Horia Guias, Carlos Javier López, Andrea Salvanti, and Patrick Sewell ’21

Family graphic spray painted on pavement
Photo by Sandy Millar on Unsplash

Editor’s note: This post is part of a series showcasing Barcelona School of Economics master projects. The project is a required component of all BSE Master’s programs.


Embedded in the growing governmental efforts to reduce the gender income gap, in 2016 a retirement pension supplement for mothers of at least two children was introduced in Spain. Through an Oaxaca-Blinder decomposition analysis, we find that the policy had a smaller-than-expected shrinking effect in the gender gap in retirement pensions. Using a difference-in-differences approach, we identify that the trade-off between the supplement incentivizing early retirement and the penalty this retirement modality entails in Spain is the mechanism driving this result. Finally, we developed a dynamic choice model to simulate women’s behavior under alternative versions of the policy.


Our main motivation was to analyse whether the maternity supplement proposed by the Spanish government in 2016 fostered gender equality through a reduction of the gender gap in retirement income. We decompose the average monthly retirement income for both men and women into its determinants and estimate how the gender difference in returns on pension of having two or more children changes after the policy is introduced. Our result is that the policy had a smaller-than-expected shrinking effect in the gender gap in retirement pensions, as the gender gap for regular retirement closes but the gap conditional on early retirement (i.e. below 65 years) remains unaffected.


Figure 1: Time Series of Average Monthly Retirement Income: negative trend reverted for women retiring at 65 after the introduction of the policy but not for women retiring at an earlier age.

Using a difference-in-differences approach, we observe that the policy has a positive effect on all retirement hazard rates – i.e. the probability of retiring at a certain age, conditional on not having done so before.

One reason for the lower income effect is due to the trade-off that women face when they consider retiring before reaching the age at which they would start receiving their full retirement pension. On the one hand, early retirement increases the value of leisure, which could be especially beneficial for women with difficult working biographies. On the other hand, early retirement entails a penalty on the pension. For this group of women, early retirement reduces this penalty and hence, changes the trade-off in favour of early retirement, making the substitution of retirement income for more leisure more appealing.

Finally, we develop a dynamic choice model that depicts the trade-off between income and leisure that women face in retirement decisions, which can be used in a next step to simulate different retirement policies and compare their outcomes.

Future research on the maternity benefit ought to shed light on the different effects it produced between women who were and were not in a couple, and how much agents value leisure relative to money.

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