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Gender, Time Use, and Public Policy over the Life Cycle

  • Patricia Apps
  • Ray Rees

In this paper we compare gender differences in the allocation of time to market work, domestic work, child care, and leisure over the life cycle. Time-use profiles for these activity categories are constructed on survey data for three countries: Australia, the UK, and Germany. We discuss the extent to which gender differences and life-cycle variation in time use can be explained by public policy, focusing on the tax treatment of the female partner and on access to high-quality, affordable child care. Profiles of time use, earnings, and taxes are compared over the life cycle defined on age as well as on phases that represent the key transitions in the life cycle of a typical household. Our contention is that, given the decision to have children, life-cycle time use and consumption decisions of households are determined by them and by public policy. Before children arrive, the adult members of the household have high labour supplies and plenty of leisure. The presence of pre-school children, in combination with the tax treatment of the second earner's income and the cost of bought-in child care, dramatically change the pattern of time use, leading to large falls in female labour supply. We also highlight the fact that, in the three countries we study, female labour supply exhibits a very high degree of heterogeneity after the arrival of children, and we show that this has important implications for public policy. Copyright 2005, Oxford University Press.

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Article provided by Oxford University Press in its journal Oxford Review of Economic Policy.

Volume (Year): 21 (2005)
Issue (Month): 3 (Autumn)
Pages: 439-461

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Handle: RePEc:oup:oxford:v:21:y:2005:i:3:p:439-461
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  1. Martin Browning & Annamaria Lusardi, 1996. "Household Saving: Micro Theories and Micro Facts," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 34(4), pages 1797-1855, December.
  2. Tomas Kögel, 2001. "Did the association between fertility and female employment within OECD countries really change its sign?," MPIDR Working Papers WP-2001-034, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany.
  3. Deaton, Angus, 1992. "Understanding Consumption," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198288244.
  4. Orazio Attanasio & Hamish Low & Virginia Sanchez-Marcos, 2008. "Explaining Changes in Female Labor Supply in a Life-Cycle Model," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(4), pages 1517-52, September.
  5. Michael J. Boskin & Eytan Sheshinski, 1979. "Optimal Tax Treatment of the Family: Married Couples," NBER Working Papers 0368, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Apps, Patricia & Rees, Ray, 2001. "Fertility, Female Labor Supply and Public Policy," IZA Discussion Papers 409, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  7. Galor, Oded & Weil, David, 1995. "The Gender Gap, Fertility and Growth," CEPR Discussion Papers 1157, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  8. Patricia Apps, 2001. "Why an Earned Income Tax Credit Program is a Mistake for Australia," CEPR Discussion Papers 431, Centre for Economic Policy Research, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.
  9. Dolores Ferrero Martínez & Amaia Iza, 2004. "Skill premium effects on fertility and female labor force supply," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 17(1), pages 1-16, February.
  10. John Pencavel, 1998. "The Market Work Behavior and Wages of Women: 1975-94," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 33(4), pages 771-804.
  11. Richard Blundell & Martin Browning & Costas Meghir, 1993. "Consumer demand and the life-cycle allocation of household expenditures," IFS Working Papers W93/11, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  12. Apps, P.F. & Rees, R., 1998. "On the Taxation of Trade Within and Between Households," Papers 337, Australian National University - Department of Economics.
  13. Kathryn Shaw, 1994. "The Persistence of Female Labor Supply: Empirical Evidence and Implications," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 29(2), pages 348-378.
  14. Martin Browning & Thomas F. Crossley, 2001. "The Life-Cycle Model of Consumption and Saving," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 15(3), pages 3-22, Summer.
  15. Henriette Engelhardt & Alexia Prskawetz, 2002. "On the changing correlation between fertility and female employment over space and time," MPIDR Working Papers WP-2002-052, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany.
  16. Patricia Apps & Ray Rees, 2001. "Household Saving and Full Consumpyion Over the Life Cycle," CEPR Discussion Papers 428, Centre for Economic Policy Research, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.
  17. Florence Jaumotte, 2003. "Female Labour Force Participation: Past Trends and Main Determinants in OECD Countries," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 376, OECD Publishing.
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