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Completed project

Understanding the gender gap in sickness absence

Project period 2013 - December 2018
Project employer The Research Council of Norway
Project nr. 10024

In this project, we investigate three possible mechanisms behind the gender gap in sickness absence in Norway; (1) The importance of having children, (2) Investments in health and (3) Statistical discrimination.

The first part of the project will give an overview of patterns in sickness absence over the lifecycle with an emphasis on the importance of having children in the family. We will also use instrumental variables methods to evaluate the causal impact of children on sickness absence.

The second part of the project investigates the apparent paradox that women have higher sickness absence rates, but live longer than men. A possible explanation may be that women to a larger degree and at an earlier stage visit a doctor or in other ways take better care of their health. Another explanation is that there are biological differences between men and women in type of illness and how fast they recover. We wish to investigate the importance of differences in behavior by comparing behavior after illnesses that biologically affects men and women in the same way.

The third part of the project investigates whether high female absence rates overall makes the threshold to be absent lower for the individual woman. One reason for this is that the employer may expect the woman to have higher sickness absence than a man, so that sickness absence will not serve as the same negative signal to the employer for women. The (career) cost of staying home when ill can therefore be lower for women.


Sara Cools PhD Research Professor +47 984 96 736 Send e-mail
Marte Strøm PhD Senior Research Fellow +47 408 85 333 Send e-mail


  • Pål Schøne & Marte Strøm (2021). International labor market competition and wives’ labor supply responses. Labour Economics.
  • Simen Markussen & Marte Strøm (2020). Children and labor market outcomes: separating the effects of the first three children. Journal of Population Economics.
  • Sara Cools; Simen Markussen & Marte Strøm (2017). Children and Careers: How Family Size Affects Parents’ Labor Market Outcomes in the Long Run. Demography.  54, s 1773- 1793
  • Sara Cools; Simen Markussen & Marte Strøm (2015). Menns og kvinners sykefravær: Hvilken rolle spiller antall barn?. Søkelys på arbeidslivet.  32, s 325- 343

View all works in Cristin

  • Marte Strøm & Simen Markussen (2015). The effects of motherhood.
  • Simen Markussen & Marte Strøm (2015). The effects of motherhood.
  • Marte Strøm (2014). Foreldres sykefravær.
  • Marte Strøm (2014). Family size and health.
  • Marte Strøm (2013). Random kids - decomposing the effects of fertility on labor market outcomes.
  • Marte Strøm (2013). Understanding the gender gap in sickness absence.
  • Marte Strøm (2013). The Effects of Motherhood.
  • Marte Strøm (2013). Family size and health.
  • Marte Strøm (2012). Understanding the gender gap in sickness absence.

View all works in Cristin

Tags: Working Life, Welfare
Published June 17, 2014 9:59 AM - Last modified Feb. 18, 2020 10:04 AM