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Expecting Equality: Exploring Pregnancy-Related Bias Across Brazil

Institutions & Governance Brazil

Photo Credit: Unsplash

Policy Context

The body of literature addressing the motherhood penalty is extensive and growing (Blau and Kahn, 2017; Delecourt and Fitzpatrick, 2021; Kleven et al., 2019), yet our understanding of its underlying causes remains incomplete. A gap exists in the literature regarding the influence of firms in shaping the existence and magnitude of this penalty. Moreover, the extent to which employer bias towards pregnant women – whether occurring before, during, or after pregnancy – affects this phenomenon remains largely unexplored. While numerous studies have investigated the child penalty and various forms of discrimination, little attention has been paid to understanding the relationship between these factors: namely, how much of the child penalty can be attributed to employer discrimination against pregnant women.

In 2017, Brazil enacted a significant reform within the labor courts, increasing anticipated costs associated with suing an employer. The reform resulted in a notable decrease of labor complaints filed (2.6 million in 2017 to 1.8 million in 2019). Furthermore, due to the organizational structure of labor courts in Brazil, access to justice is significantly different across neighborhoods.

Study Design

CEGA funding will be used to examine how the motherhood penalty evolved following the 2017 labor reform. Subsequently, Daniela will conduct an event study analysis at the firm level to assess the impact of lawsuits on firm behaviors and patterns. Specifically, she will work to delineate characteristics of firms exhibiting higher penalties and dismissals before, during, and after pregnancy, including factors such as location, size, economic sector, demographic characteristics (e.g., age and gender of owners and managers), among others.


Results and Policy Lessons


  • Daniela Paz Cruzat

2024 — 2025

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