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Culture as Learning: The Evolution of Female Labor Force Participation over a Century

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  • Raquel Fernandez

Abstract

Married women's labor force participation has increased dramatically over the last century. Why this has occurred has been the subject of much debate. This paper investigates the role of culture as learning in this change. To do so, it develops a dynamic model of culture in which individuals hold heterogeneous beliefs regarding the relative long-run payoffs for women who work in the market versus the home. These beliefs evolve rationally via an intergenerational learning process. Women are assumed to learn about the long-term payoffs of working by observing (noisy) private and public signals. They then make a work decision. This process generically generates an S-shaped figure for female labor force participation, which is what is found in the data. The S shape results from the dynamics of learning. I calibrate the model to several key statistics and show that it does a good job in replicating the quantitative evolution of female LFP in the US over the last 120 years. The model highlights a new dynamic role for changes in wages via their effect on intergenerational learning. The calibration shows that this role was quantitatively important in several decades.

Suggested Citation

  • Raquel Fernandez, 2007. "Culture as Learning: The Evolution of Female Labor Force Participation over a Century," NBER Working Papers 13373, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13373
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    Cited by:

    1. Doreen Triebe, 2013. "Wo(men) at Work?: The Impact of Cohabiting and Married Partners' Earning on Women's Work Hours," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 614, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
    2. Guido Tabellini & Mariaflavia Harari, 2009. "The Effect of Culture on the Functioning of Institutions: Evidence from European Regions," ifo DICE Report, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 7(1), pages 13-19, 04.
    3. Latorre, María C., 2016. "A CGE Analysis of the Impact of Foreign Direct Investment and Tariff Reform on Female and Male Workers in Tanzania," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 77(C), pages 346-366.
    4. Osnat Lifshitz & Michael Keane & Zvi Eckstein, 2016. "Sources of Change in the Life-Cycle Decisions of American Men and Women: 1962-2014," 2016 Meeting Papers 918, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    5. Dominic Rohner & Mathias Thoenig & Fabrizio Zilibotti, 2013. "War Signals: A Theory of Trade, Trust, and Conflict," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 80(3), pages 1114-1147.
    6. Matthias Doepke & Moshe Hazan & Yishay D. Maoz, 2015. "The Baby Boom and World War II: A Macroeconomic Analysis," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 82(3), pages 1031-1073.
    7. Alessandra Fogli & Laura Veldkamp, 2011. "Nature or Nurture? Learning and the Geography of Female Labor Force Participation," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 79(4), pages 1103-1138, July.
    8. Guido Tabellini, 2008. "The Scope of Cooperation: Values and Incentives," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 123(3), pages 905-950.
    9. Stefania Albanesi & Claudia Olivetti, 2016. "Gender Roles and Medical Progress," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 124(3), pages 650-695.
    10. Lídia Farré & Francis Vella, 2013. "The Intergenerational Transmission of Gender Role Attitudes and its Implications for Female Labour Force Participation," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 80(318), pages 219-247, April.
    11. 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, pages 427-455, May.
    12. Balleer, Almut & Gómez-Salvador, Ramón & Turunen, Jarkko, 2009. "Labour force participation in the euro area: a cohort based analysis," Working Paper Series 1049, European Central Bank.
    13. Zvi Eckstein & Osnat Lifshitz, 2011. "Dynamic Female Labor Supply," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 79(6), pages 1675-1726, November.
    14. Hanno Lustig, "undated". "The Wealth-Consumption Ratio: A Litmus Test for Consumption-based Asset Pricing Models," UCLA Economics Online Papers 420, UCLA Department of Economics.
    15. Suqin Ge & Fang Yang, 2013. "Accounting For The Gender Gap In College Attainment," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 51(1), pages 478-499, January.
    16. Kok, Suzanne & Bosch, Nicole & Deelen, Anja & Euwals, Rob, 2011. "Migrant Women on the Labour Market: On the Role of Home- and Host-Country Participation," IZA Discussion Papers 5817, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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    18. Jean-Baptiste Michau, 2013. "Unemployment Insurance And Cultural Transmission: Theory And Application To European Unemployment," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 11(6), pages 1320-1347, December.
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    20. Latorre, Maria C., 2014. "CGE analysis of the impact of foreign direct investment and tariff reform on female and male wages," Policy Research Working Paper Series 7073, The World Bank.
    21. repec:ces:ifodic:v:7:y:2009:i:1:p:14567024 is not listed on IDEAS
    22. Guido Tabellini, 2007. "Institutions and Culture," Working Papers 330, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
    23. Hodler, Roland, 2008. "Leisure and redistribution," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 24(2), pages 354-363, June.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E2 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment
    • J21 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Force and Employment, Size, and Structure
    • Z1 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics

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