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The Baby Boom and World War II: The Role of Labor Market Experience


  • Matthias Doepke
  • Moshe Hazan
  • Yishay D. Maoz


The past century has witnessed major changes in the economic choices of American women. Over the long term, there has been a marked trend towards lower fertility and higher female labor force participation. However, change did not occur in a uniform fashion: during the post-war Baby Boom, fertility rates increased substantially, until the long-term downward trend reestablished itself in the 1960s. Similarly, the labor market participation of younger women declined for a while during the same period. What can explain these reversals? In this paper, we propose a joint explanation for these changes through a single shock: the demand for female labor during World War II. Many of the women of the war generation continued to work after the war. We argue that this crowded out younger women from the labor market, who chose to have more children instead.

Suggested Citation

  • Matthias Doepke & Moshe Hazan & Yishay D. Maoz, 2006. "The Baby Boom and World War II: The Role of Labor Market Experience," DEGIT Conference Papers c011_026, DEGIT, Dynamics, Economic Growth, and International Trade.
  • Handle: RePEc:deg:conpap:c011_026

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Goldin, Claudia, 1992. "Understanding the Gender Gap: An Economic History of American Women," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195072709, June.
    2. Claudia Olivetti, 2006. "Changes in Women's Hours of Market Work: The Role of Returns to Experience," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 9(4), pages 557-587, October.
    3. Francine D. Blau & Lawrence M. Kahn, 2000. "Gender Differences in Pay," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 14(4), pages 75-99, Fall.
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    Cited by:

    1. Michele Boldrin & Larry E. Jones & Alice Schoonbroodt, 2005. "From Busts to Booms in Babies and Goodies," Levine's Bibliography 784828000000000379, UCLA Department of Economics.
    2. Goksel, Türkmen & Gurdal, Mehmet Y. & Orman, Cuneyt, 2014. "The baby boom, baby busts, and the role of grandmothers in childcare," MPRA Paper 65438, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Schoonbroodt, Alice & Jones, Larry, 2007. "Baby busts and baby booms: the fertility response to shocks in dynastic models," Discussion Paper Series In Economics And Econometrics 0706, Economics Division, School of Social Sciences, University of Southampton.
    4. Orman, Cuneyt & Goksel, Turkmen & Gurdal, Mehmet Y, 2011. "The Baby Boom, Baby Busts, and Grandmothers," MPRA Paper 28782, University Library of Munich, Germany.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J10 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - General
    • J20 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - General

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