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The Effect of Fertility on Mothers’ Labor Supply over the Last Two Centuries

Listed author(s):
  • Dehejia, Rajeev

    ()

    (Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago)

  • Dehejia, Rajeev

    (New York University)

  • Jordan, Andrew

    (University of Chicago)

  • Pop-Eleches, Cristian

    (Columbia University)

  • Samii, Cyrus

    (New York University)

  • Schulze, Karl

    (Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago)

This paper documents the evolving impact of childbearing on the work activity of mothers. Based on a compiled dataset of 441 censuses and surveys between 1787 and 2015, representing 103 countries and 48.4 million mothers, we document three main findings: (1) the effect of fertility on labor supply is small and typically indistinguishable from zero at low levels of development and economically large and negative at higher levels of development; (2) this negative gradient is remarkably consistent across histories of currently developed countries and contemporary cross-sections of countries; and (3) the results are strikingly robust to identification strategies, model specification, data construction, and rescaling. We explain our results within a standard labor-leisure model and attribute the negative labor supply gradient to changes in the sectoral and occupational structure of female jobs as countries develop.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago in its series Working Paper Series with number WP-2017-14.

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Length: 97 pages
Date of creation: 17 Sep 2017
Handle: RePEc:fip:fedhwp:wp-2017-14
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