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“Opting out?” The effect of children on women's employment in the United States

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  • Heather Boushey

Abstract

In the United States, a recent spate of popular media attention has focused on whether mothers, especially highly educated mothers in their thirties, are increasingly “opting out” of employment. This paper uses data from the Current Population Survey's Annual Social and Economic Survey (ASEC) to examine whether children cause women to exit employment. This paper finds that the “child effect” on women's employment has fallen since the end of the 1970s. The child effect was -21.8 percentage points in 1979 and has fallen consistently over the last two decades to -12.7 percentage points in 2005. Between 2000 and 2005, the child effect grew from -11.1 to -12.7, but the change was statistically insignificant. Recent declines in women's employment may be more an effect of the weak labor market for all women, mothers and non-mothers, rather than an increase in mothers voluntarily choosing to exit employment.

Suggested Citation

  • Heather Boushey, 2008. "“Opting out?” The effect of children on women's employment in the United States," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 14(1), pages 1-36.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:femeco:v:14:y:2008:i:1:p:1-36
    DOI: 10.1080/13545700701716672
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Øystein Kravdal, 2014. "The Estimation of Fertility Effects on Happiness: Even More Difficult than Usually Acknowledged," European Journal of Population, Springer;European Association for Population Studies, vol. 30(3), pages 263-290, August.
    2. Gunseli Berik & Ebru Kongar, 2012. "Time Use of Mothers and Fathers in Hard Times: The US Recession of 2007-09," Economics Working Paper Archive wp_726, Levy Economics Institute.
    3. J. Gimenez-Nadal & Jose Molina & Almudena Sevilla-Sanz, 2012. "Social norms, partnerships and children," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 10(2), pages 215-236, June.
    4. Liana Fox & Wen-Jui Han & Christopher Ruhm & Jane Waldfogel, 2013. "Time for Children: Trends in the Employment Patterns of Parents, 1967–2009," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 50(1), pages 25-49, February.
    5. Hélène Périvier, 2009. "Les femmes sur le marché du travail aux États-Unis. Évolutions mises en perspective avec celles de la France et de la Suède," Revue de l'OFCE, Presses de Sciences-Po, vol. 0(1), pages 49-84.
    6. Irene Böckmann & Joya Misra & Michelle Budig, 2013. "Mothers' employment in wealthy countries: how do cultural and institutional factors shape the motherhood employment and working hours gap?," LIS Working papers 594, LIS Cross-National Data Center in Luxembourg.
    7. Kravdal, Øystein, 2013. "Reflections on the Search for Fertility Effects on Happiness," Memorandum 10/2013, Oslo University, Department of Economics.
    8. Christopher Tamborini & Howard Iams, 2011. "Are Generation X’ers Different than Late Boomers? Family and Earnings Trends among Recent Cohorts of Women at Young Adulthood," Population Research and Policy Review, Springer;Southern Demographic Association (SDA), vol. 30(1), pages 59-79, February.
    9. Seonglim Lee & Jinkook Lee & Yunhee Chang, 2014. "Is Dual Income Costly for Married Couples? An Analysis of Household Expenditures," Journal of Family and Economic Issues, Springer, vol. 35(2), pages 161-177, June.
    10. Rense Nieuwenhuis & Wim Van Lancker & Diego Collado & Bea Cantillon, 2016. "Has the potential for compensating poverty by women’s employment growth been depleted?," ImPRovE Working Papers 16/02, Herman Deleeck Centre for Social Policy, University of Antwerp.
    11. Ragni Hege Kitterød & Marit Rønsen, 2011. "Housewives in a dual-earner society. Who is a housewife in contemporary Norway?," Discussion Papers 659, Statistics Norway, Research Department.
    12. Kravdal, Øystein, 2016. "Expected and unexpected consequences of childbearing – a methodologically and politically important distinction that is overlooked," Memorandum 05/2016, Oslo University, Department of Economics.
    13. Hélène Périvier, 2008. "L'impact de la Maternité sur l'Activité des Femmes aux Etats-Unis," Brussels Economic Review, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles, vol. 51(2/3), pages 221-242.
    14. de Jong, Eelke & Smits, Jeroen & Longwe, Abiba, 2017. "Estimating the Causal Effect of Fertility on Women’s Employment in Africa Using Twins," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 90(C), pages 360-368.
    15. Joni Hersch, 2013. "Opting out among women with elite education," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 11(4), pages 469-506, December.
    16. Dorrit, Posel & Gabrielle, van der Stoep, 2008. "Co-resident and absent mothers: Motherhood and labour force participation in South Africa," MPRA Paper 52907, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    17. Rense Nieuwenhuis & Henk Van der Kolk & Ariana Need, 2016. "Women’s Earnings and Household Inequality in OECD Countries, 1973–2013," LIS Working papers 598, LIS Cross-National Data Center in Luxembourg.
    18. Heather Antecol, 2015. "Career and Family Choices Among Elite Liberal Arts Graduates," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 52(4), pages 1089-1120, August.
    19. Sarah Damaske & Adrianne Frech, 2016. "Women’s Work Pathways Across the Life Course," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 53(2), pages 365-391, April.
    20. Alexandra Killewald & Xiaolin Zhou, 2015. "Mothers' Long-Term Employment Patterns," Upjohn Working Papers and Journal Articles 15-247, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
    21. van der Stoep, Gabrielle, 2008. "Childbearing and labour force participation in South Africa: sibling composition as an identification strategy?," MPRA Paper 52908, University Library of Munich, Germany.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Women's employment; work and family; mother's employment; JEL Codes: J22; J16;

    JEL classification:

    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination

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