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Wind of Change? Cultural Determinants of Maternal Labor Supply

Author

Listed:
  • Barbara Boelmann

    (Department of Economics, University College London, CReAM and University of Cologne, 30 Gordon Street, London WC1H 0AX, United Kingdom)

  • Anna Raute

    (School of Economics and Finance, Queen Mary University of London, CReAM and CEPR, Mile End Road, London E1 4NS, United Kingdom)

  • Uta Schönberg

    (Department of Economics, University College London, CReAM and IAB, 30 Gordon Street, London WC1H 0AX, United Kingdom)

Abstract

Does the culture in which a woman grows up influence her labor market decisions once she has had a child? And to what extent can exposure to a different cultural group in adulthood shape maternal labor supply? To address these questions, we exploit the setting of the German reunification. A state socialist country, East Germany strongly encouraged mothers to participate in the labor market full-time, whereas West Germany propagated a more traditional male breadwinner-model. After reunification, these two cultures were suddenly thrown together, with consequent increased social interactions between East and West Germans through migration and commuting. Zooming in on East and West Germans who migrated across the former inner-German border, we document a strong asymmetry in the persistence of the culture in which women were raised. Whereas East German female migrants return to work earlier and work longer hours than their West German colleagues even after long exposure to the more traditional West German culture, West German migrants adjust their post-birth labor supply behavior nearly entirely to that of their East German colleagues. West German return migrants continue to be influenced by the more gender egalitarian East German norm even after their return to the West, pointing towards the importance of learning from peers. Finally, taking advantage of differential inflows of East German migrants across West German workplaces in the aftermath of reunification, we show that even a partial exposure to East German colleagues induces “native” West German mothers to accelerate their return to work after childbirth, suggesting that migration might be a catalyst for cultural change.

Suggested Citation

  • Barbara Boelmann & Anna Raute & Uta Schönberg, 2021. "Wind of Change? Cultural Determinants of Maternal Labor Supply," ECONtribute Discussion Papers Series 090, University of Bonn and University of Cologne, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:ajk:ajkdps:090
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    1. Lidia Farré & Cristina Felfe & Libertad González Luna & Patrick Schneider, 2022. "Changing gender norms across generations: Evidence from a paternity leave reform," Economics Working Papers 1812, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    cultural transmission; social norms; maternal labor force participation; German reunification;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • J1 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics
    • J2 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor
    • Z1 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics

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