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Preference Formation and the Rise of Women's Labor Force Participation: Evidence from WWII


  • Raquel Fernandez
  • Alessandra Fogli
  • Claudia Olivetti


This paper presents intergenerational evidence in favor of the hypothesis that a significant factor explaining the increase in female labor force participation over time was the growing presence of men who grew up with a different family model--one in which their mother worked. We use differences in mobilization rates of men across states during WWII as a source of exogenous variation in female labor supply. We show, in particular, that higher WWII male mobilization rates led to a higher fraction of women working not only for the generation directly affected by the war, but also for the next generation. These women were young enough to profit from the changed composition in the pool of men (i.e., from the fact that WWII created more men with mothers who worked). We also show that states in which the ratio of the average fertility of working relative to non-working women is greatest, have higher female labor supply twenty years later.

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  • Raquel Fernandez & Alessandra Fogli & Claudia Olivetti, 2004. "Preference Formation and the Rise of Women's Labor Force Participation: Evidence from WWII," NBER Working Papers 10589, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10589
    Note: EFG LS LE

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Fernández, Raquel & Fogli, Alessandra & Olivetti, Claudia, 2002. "Marrying Your Mom: Preference Transmission and Women's Labour and Education Choices," CEPR Discussion Papers 3592, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    2. Jeremy Greenwood & Ananth Seshadri & Mehmet Yorukoglu, 2005. "Engines of Liberation," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 72(1), pages 109-133.
    3. Claudia Goldin & Lawrence F. Katz, 2002. "The Power of the Pill: Oral Contraceptives and Women's Career and Marriage Decisions," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(4), pages 730-770, August.
    4. Daron Acemoglu & David H. Autor & David Lyle, 2004. "Women, War, and Wages: The Effect of Female Labor Supply on the Wage Structure at Midcentury," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(3), pages 497-551, June.
    5. Smith, James P & Ward, Michael P, 1985. "Time-Series Growth in the Female Labor Force," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 3(1), pages 59-90, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. Guido Tabellini, 2010. "Culture and Institutions: Economic Development in the Regions of Europe," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 8(4), pages 677-716, June.
    2. David Bravo Urrutia & Sergio Urzúa & Claudia Sanhueza, 2007. "Is There Labor Market Discrimination Among Professionals In Chile? Lawyers, Doctors And Business-People," Working Papers wp264, University of Chile, Department of Economics.
    3. Zvi Eckstein & Osnat Lifshitz, 2011. "Dynamic Female Labor Supply," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 79(6), pages 1675-1726, November.
    4. David Bravo & Claudia Sanhueza & Sergio Urzúa, 2008. "Is There Labor Market Discrimination among Professionals in Chile?: Lawyers, Doctors and Businesspeople," IDB Publications (Working Papers) 3327, Inter-American Development Bank.
    5. Dao, Minh Quang, 2014. "Female Labor Force Participation in Developing Countries - La partecipazione della forza lavoro femminile nei paesi in via di sviluppo," Economia Internazionale / International Economics, Camera di Commercio Industria Artigianato Agricoltura di Genova, vol. 67(3), pages 337-350.
    6. Rob Euwals & Marike Knoef & Daniel Vuuren, 2011. "The trend in female labour force participation: what can be expected for the future?," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 40(3), pages 729-753, May.
    7. Oriana Bandiera & Ashwini Natraj, 2013. "Does Gender Inequality Hinder Development and Economic Growth? Evidence and Policy Implications," World Bank Research Observer, World Bank Group, vol. 28(1), pages 2-21, February.
    8. David Bravo & Claudia Sanhueza & Sergio Urzua, 2008. "Discriminación en el mercado laboral entre profesionales de Chile. Abogados, Médicos y gente de negocios," Research Department Publications 3249, Inter-American Development Bank, Research Department.
    9. World Bank, 2011. "Work and Family : Latin American and Caribbean Women in Search of a New Balance
      [Trabajo & familia : mujeres de América Latina y el Caribe en busca de un nuevo equilibrio - Resumen ejecuivo (Vol. 2
      ," World Bank Other Operational Studies 12489, The World Bank.
    10. Marcela Perticara, 2006. "Women’s Employment Transitions and Fertility," ILADES-Georgetown University Working Papers inv172, Ilades-Georgetown University, Universidad Alberto Hurtado/School of Economics and Bussines.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply
    • Z10 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - General

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