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The Determinants of Specialization Within Marriage

  • Shelly Lundberg
  • Elaina Rose

For recent cohorts of American couples, the traditional division of labor between husbands and wives is strongly associated with the presence of children in the household. We define measures of specialization and market intensity in household house worked and earnings to describe the joint allocation of time and effort by married men and women. Using longitudinal data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, we estimate the changes in the outcomes that follow the birth of a couple’s first child, and the association of these changes with parental education, factors related to divorce risk, and birth cohort. On average, specialization increases and market intensity falls, but we find evidence of considerable heterogeneity in the effects of children o household behavior, including the responses of fathers. Married couples from later birth cohorts specialize less in response to the birth of their first child, as do couples who eventually divorce. The gender of the first child has, surprisingly, a significant impact on the market intensity of the parents’ response.

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Paper provided by Department of Economics at the University of Washington in its series Discussion Papers in Economics at the University of Washington with number 0048.

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Date of creation: Dec 1998
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Handle: RePEc:fth:washer:0048
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  1. Arleen Leibowitz & Jacob Klerman, 1995. "Explaining changes in married mothers’ employment over time," Demography, Springer, vol. 32(3), pages 365-378, August.
  2. Gray, Jeffrey S, 1998. "Divorce-Law Changes, Household Bargaining, and Married Women's Labor Supply," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(3), pages 628-42, June.
  3. Sanders Korenman & David Neumark, 1990. "Marriage, Motherhood, and Wages," NBER Working Papers 3473, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Johnson, William R & Skinner, Jonathan, 1986. "Labor Supply and Marital Separation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(3), pages 455-69, June.
  5. David Neumark & Sanders Korenman, 1994. "Sources of Bias in Women's Wage Equations: Results Using Sibling Data," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 29(2), pages 379-405.
  6. Pencavel, John, 1987. "Labor supply of men: A survey," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & R. Layard (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 1, pages 3-102 Elsevier.
  7. Angrist, Joshua D & Evans, William N, 1998. "Children and Their Parents' Labor Supply: Evidence from Exogenous Variation in Family Size," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(3), pages 450-77, June.
  8. D. Klepinger & S. Lundberg & R. Plotnick, . "How Does Adolescent Fertility Affect the Human Capital and Wages of Young Women?," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers 1145-97, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.
  9. Becker, Gary S, 1985. "Human Capital, Effort, and the Sexual Division of Labor," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 3(1), pages S33-58, January.
  10. Leibowitz, A. & Klerman, J.A., 1995. "Explaining Changes in Married Mothers'Employment Over Time," Papers 95-13, RAND - Reprint Series.
  11. Sanders Korenman & David Neumark, 1991. "Does Marriage Really Make Men More Productive?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 26(2), pages 282-307.
  12. Becker, Gary S, 1973. "A Theory of Marriage: Part I," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 81(4), pages 813-46, July-Aug..
  13. Marjorie B. McElroy, 1990. "The Empirical Content of Nash-Bargained Household Behavior," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 25(4), pages 559-583.
  14. Lundberg, Shelly J, 1988. "Labor Supply of Husbands and Wives: A Simultaneous Equations Approach," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 70(2), pages 224-35, May.
  15. Jane Waldfogel, 1998. "Understanding the "Family Gap" in Pay for Women with Children," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 12(1), pages 137-156, Winter.
  16. Daniel S. Hamermesh, 2000. "Togetherness: Spouses' Synchronous Leisure, and the Impact of Children," NBER Working Papers 7455, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Browning, Martin, 1992. "Children and Household Economic Behavior," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 30(3), pages 1434-75, September.
  18. Eng Seng Loh, 1996. "Productivity Differences and the Marriage Wage Premium for White Males," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 31(3), pages 566-589.
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