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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.

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Paper provided by DEGIT, Dynamics, Economic Growth, and International Trade in its series DEGIT Conference Papers with number c011_026.

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Length: 20 pages
Date of creation: Jun 2006
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:deg:conpap:c011_026
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  1. Francine D. Blau & Lawrence M. Kahn, 2000. "Gender Differences in Pay," NBER Working Papers 7732, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  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. Goldin, Claudia, 1992. "Understanding the Gender Gap: An Economic History of American Women," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195072709, March.
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