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The New Life Cycle of Women's Employment: Disappearing Humps, Sagging Middles, Expanding Tops

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  • Claudia Goldin
  • Joshua Mitchell

Abstract

A new life cycle of women's employment emerged with cohorts born in the 1950s. For prior cohorts, life-cycle employment had a hump shape; it increased from the twenties to the forties, hit a peak, and then declined starting in the fifties. The new life cycle of employment is initially high and flat, there is a dip in the middle, and a phasing out that is more prolonged than for previous cohorts. The hump is gone, the middle is a bit sagging, and the top has greatly expanded. We explore the increase in cumulative work experience for women from the 1930s to the 1970s birth cohorts using data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation and the Health and Retirement Study. We investigate the changing labor force impact of a birth event across cohorts and by education, and also the impact of taking leave or quitting. We find greatly increased labor force experience across cohorts, far less time out after a birth, and greater labor force recovery for those who take paid or unpaid leave. Increased employment of women in their older ages is related to more continuous work experience across the life cycle.

Suggested Citation

  • Claudia Goldin & Joshua Mitchell, 2017. "The New Life Cycle of Women's Employment: Disappearing Humps, Sagging Middles, Expanding Tops," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 31(1), pages 161-182, Winter.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:31:y:2017:i:1:p:161-82
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.31.1.161
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Goldin, Claudia, 1989. "Life-Cycle Labor-Force Participation of Married Women: Historical Evidence and Implications," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 7(1), pages 20-47, January.
    2. Francine D. Blau & Lawrence M. Kahn, 2007. "Changes in the Labor Supply Behavior of Married Women: 1980–2000," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 25, pages 393-438.
    3. Heckman, James J & Willis, Robert J, 1977. "A Beta-logistic Model for the Analysis of Sequential Labor Force Participation by Married Women," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 85(1), pages 27-58, February.
    4. Goldin, Claudia, 2006. "The Quiet Revolution That Transformed Women’s Employment, Education, and Family," Scholarly Articles 2943933, Harvard University Department of Economics.
    5. Claudia Goldin, 2006. "The Quiet Revolution That Transformed Women's Employment, Education, and Family," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(2), pages 1-21, May.
    6. Orazio Attanasio & Hamish Low & Virginia Sánchez-Marcos, 2008. "Explaining Changes in Female Labor Supply in a Life-Cycle Model," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(4), pages 1517-1552, September.
    7. Nikolay Angelov & Per Johansson & Erica Lindahl, 2016. "Parenthood and the Gender Gap in Pay," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 34(3), pages 545-579.
    8. Francine D. Blau & Lawrence M. Kahn, 2013. "Female Labor Supply: Why Is the United States Falling Behind?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(3), pages 251-256, May.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Francesconi, Marco & Parey, Matthias, 2018. "Early Gender Gaps Among University Graduates," CEPR Discussion Papers 12754, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    2. Fane Groes & Daniela Iorio & Man Yee (Mallory) Leung & Raül Santaeulàlia-Llopis, 2017. "Educational Disparities in the Battle Against Infertility: Evidence from IVF Success," Working Papers 977, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.
    3. Francine D. Blau & Anne E. Winkler, 2017. "Women, Work, and Family," NBER Working Papers 23644, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Nan L. Maxwell & Nathan Wozny, "undated". "Gender Gaps in Time Use and Earnings: What's Norms Got to Do With It?," Mathematica Policy Research Reports 38f127bf7f494794807db7a3a, Mathematica Policy Research.
    5. Razzu, Giovanni & Singleton, Carl & Mitchell, Mark, 2018. "On why gender employment equality in Britain has stalled since the early 1990s," MPRA Paper 87190, University Library of Munich, Germany.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply
    • N32 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-

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