The labor supply of married women: why does it differ across U.S. cities?
Using Census Public Use Micro Sample (PUMS) data for 1980, 1990 and 2000, this paper documents a little-noticed feature of U.S. labor markets that there is wide variation in the labor market participation rates and annual work hours of white married women across urban areas. This variation is also large among sub-groups, including women with children and those with different levels of education. Among the explanations for this variation one emerges as particularly important: married women's labor force participation decisions appear to be very responsive to commuting times. There is a strong empirical evidence demonstrating that labor force participation rates of married women are negatively correlated with commuting time. What is more, the analysis shows that metropolitan areas which experienced relatively large increases in average commuting time between 1980 and 2000 also had slower growth of labor force participation of married women. This feature of local labor markets may have important implications for policy and for further research.
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