This research investigates the role of parents in explaining the surprisingly low presence of women among inventors despite their increase among graduates from science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects. With Danish registry data on the population born between 1966 and 1985 and an experimental setting crafted on siblings’ gender composition, we find that the transmission of inventorship from parents to children disfavors daughters if they have a (second-born) brother. We complement this analysis with evidence about the role of parental factors at different stages of children’s education. Overall, our results confirm that parental role models matter for children’s education, especially at early stages and, through this, increase the probability of a child’s becoming an inventor. However, the direct transmission of inventorship that favors boys much more than girls seems to be affected by gendered expectations developed by parents about daughters’ and sons’ returns from inventorship. Our study contributes to explaining who becomes an inventor and why by adding an important boundary condition to the literature: Parents are intermediaries who, based on their own interpretation of external information about inventive jobs, contribute to create or limit opportunities for their children.
Bibliographical noteEpub ahead of print. Published online: 20 May 2022.
- Family environment