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Effect of Family Structure on Life Satisfaction: Australian Evidence

  • M. D. R. Evans


    (Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, The University of Melbourne)

  • Jonathan Kelley


    (Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, The University of Melbourne)

Women's workforce participation increased strongly over the 1980s and 1990s, with the increases being generally larger for married than non-married women, and with the increases being especially large in middle age, as shown by ABS data. Multivariate analysis of IsssA data covering this period shows that there is actually rather little time trend per se. Instead, underlying the apparent shift over time, there are large compositional changes in the female population and there is a strong ""birth cohort or ""vintage"" effect such that succeeding cohorts of women have higher propensities to work throughout their lives than did their predecessors. Among the compositional changes, the strong rise in women's educational attainments and the large decline in fertility both exert substantial influences elevating women's workforce participation and hours worked. There were no evident time effects associated with particular policy initiatives, but some of these are too colinear with time to analyse separately. We tested many interactions with time to assess in particular whether the effects of education and of family situation are declining over time, but no significant interactions with time were found. Thus, for example, there are now many more highly educated women, leading to higher rates of women's employment overall, but the relative importance of education has not changed significantly. Similarly, there are now more childless women, and women with children have fewer of them, so declining fertility has elevated employment, but the impacts of childlessness and of diverse family sizes have not changed, according to these models. Finally, note that we tested a number of potential effects of the family of origin, but none was significant, suggesting that analyses of women's labour force participation and hours worked using datasets that lack these variables probably do not suffer from omitted variables bias."

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Paper provided by Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, The University of Melbourne in its series Melbourne Institute Working Paper Series with number wp2004n24.

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Length: 27 pages
Date of creation: Sep 2004
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:iae:iaewps:wp2004n24
Contact details of provider: Postal: Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, The University of Melbourne, Victoria 3010 Australia
Phone: +61 3 8344 2100
Fax: +61 3 8344 2111
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  1. Clarkberg, M. & Stolzenberg, R.M. & Waite, L.J., 1993. "Attitudes, Values, and the Entrance into Cohabitational Unions," Papers 93-40, RAND - Labor and Population Program.
  2. Van Praag, Bernard, 1971. "The welfare function of income in Belgium: An empirical investigation," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 2(3), pages 337-369.
  3. Robert Cummins, 1998. "The Second Approximation to an International Standard for Life Satisfaction," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 43(3), pages 307-334, March.
  4. Bruce Headey & Alexander Wearing, 1990. "Subjective well-being and coping with adversity," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 22(4), pages 327-349, June.
  5. Jonathan Kelley & M. D. R. Evans, 1999. "Australian and International Survey Data for Multivariate Analysis: The IsssA," Australian Economic Review, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, vol. 32(3), pages 298-303.
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