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The Disappearing Gender Gap: The Impact of Divorce, Wages, and Preferences on Education Choices and Women's Work

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  • Fernández, Raquel

    (New York University)

  • Wong, Joyce Cheng

    (New York University)

Abstract

Women born in 1935 went to college significantly less than their male counterparts and married women's labor force participation (LFP) averaged 40% between the ages of thirty and forty. The cohort born twenty years later behaved very differently. The education gender gap was eliminated and married women's LFP averaged 70% over the same ages. In order to evaluate the quantitative contributions of the many significant changes in the economic environment, family structure, and social norms that occurred over this period, this paper develops a dynamic life-cycle model calibrated to data relevant to the 1935 cohort. We find that the higher probability of divorce and the changes in wage structure faced by the 1955 cohort are each able to explain, in isolation, a large proportion (about 60%) of the observed changes in female LFP. After combining all economic and family structure changes, we find that a simple change in preferences towards work can account for the remaining change in LFP. To eliminate the education gender gap requires, on the other hand, for the psychic cost of obtaining higher education to change asymmetrically for women versus men.

Suggested Citation

  • Fernández, Raquel & Wong, Joyce Cheng, 2011. "The Disappearing Gender Gap: The Impact of Divorce, Wages, and Preferences on Education Choices and Women's Work," IZA Discussion Papers 6046, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp6046
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    2. Bertocchi, Graziella & Bozzano, Monica, 2016. "Women, medieval commerce, and the education gender gap," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 44(3), pages 496-521.
    3. Raquel Fernández & Joyce Cheng Wong, 2014. "Free to Leave? A Welfare Analysis of Divorce Regimes," NBER Working Papers 20251, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Helmuth Cremer & Pierre Pestieau & Kerstin Roeder, 2015. "United but (un)equal: human capital, probability of divorce, and the marriage contract," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 28(1), pages 195-217, January.
    5. Bozzano, Monica, 2017. "On the historical roots of women's empowerment across Italian provinces: religion or family culture?," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 49(C), pages 24-46.
    6. Rania Gihleb & Osnat Lifshitz, 2022. "Dynamic Effects of Educational Assortative Mating on Labor Supply," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 46, pages 302-327, October.
    7. Jeanne Lafortune & Corinne Low, 2023. "Collateralized Marriage," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 15(4), pages 252-291, October.
    8. Fernández, Raquel & Wong, Joyce Cheng, 2014. "Free to Leave? A Welfare Analysis of Divorce Regimes," CEPR Discussion Papers 10047, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    9. Mariko J. Klasing & Petros Milionis, 2020. "The international epidemiological transition and the education gender gap," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 25(1), pages 37-86, March.
    10. Zvi Eckstein & Osnat Lifshitz, 2015. "Household Interaction And The Labor Supply Of Married Women," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 56(2), pages 427-455, May.
    11. Siahaan, Freddy & Lee, Daniel Y. & Kalist, David E., 2014. "Educational attainment of children of immigrants: Evidence from the national longitudinal survey of youth," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 38(C), pages 1-8.
    12. Samantha Haussmann & André Braz Golgher, 2016. "Shrinking gender wage gaps in the Brazilian labor market: an application of the APC approach [Shrinking gender wage gaps in the Brazilian labor market: an application of the APC approach]," Nova Economia, Economics Department, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (Brazil), vol. 26(2), pages 429-464, May-Augus.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    divorce; labor force participation; gender gap; education and skill premium;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply
    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making

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