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The Baby Boom and World War II: A Macroeconomic Analysis

  • Matthias Doepke
  • Moshe Hazan
  • Yishay Maoz

We argue that one major cause of the U.S. postwar baby boom was the rise in female labor supply during World War II. We develop a quantitative dynamic general equilibrium model with endogenous fertility and female labor force participation decisions. We use the model to assess the impact of the war on female labor supply and fertility in the decades following the war. For the war generation of women, the high demand for female labor brought about by mobilization leads to an increase in labor supply that persists after the war. As a result, younger women who reach adulthood in the 1950s face increased labor market competition, which impels them to exit the labor market and start having children earlier. The effect is amplified by the rise in taxes necessary to pay down wartime government debt. In our calibrated model, the war generates a substantial baby boom followed by a baby bust.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 13707.

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Date of creation: Dec 2007
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13707
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  1. Hazan, Moshe & D. Maoz, Yishay, 2002. "Women's labor force participation and the dynamics of tradition," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 75(2), pages 193-198, April.
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  11. Moffitt, Robert, 1984. "Profiles of Fertility, Labour Supply and Wages of Married Women: A Complete Life-Cycle Model," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 51(2), pages 263-78, April.
  12. Virginia Sanchez-Marcos & Orazio Attanasio & Hamish Low, 2004. "Explaining Changes in Female Labour Supply in a Life-Cycle Model," 2004 Meeting Papers 492, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  13. Larry E. Jones & Alice Schoonbroodt, 2010. "Baby Busts and Baby Booms: The Fertility Response to Shocks in Dynastic Models," NBER Working Papers 16596, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. 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.
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  24. Andrés Erosa & Luisa Fuster & Diego Restuccia, 2002. "Fertility Decisions and Gender Differences in Labor Turnover, Employment, and Wages," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 5(4), pages 856-891, October.
  25. Goldin, Claudia D, 1991. "The Role of World War II in the Rise of Women's Employment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(4), pages 741-56, September.
  26. Larry E. Jones & Rodolfo E. Manuelli & Ellen R. McGrattan, 2003. "Why are married women working so much?," Staff Report 317, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  27. Casey B. Mulligan, 1998. "Pecuniary Incentives to Work in the United States during World War II," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 106(5), pages 1033-1077, October.
  28. Jones, Larry & Schoonbroodt, Alice, 2007. "Baby busts and baby booms: the response of fertility to shocks in dynastic models," Discussion Paper Series In Economics And Econometrics 0706, Economics Division, School of Social Sciences, University of Southampton.
  29. Robert Haveman & Barbara Wolfe, 1995. "The Determinants of Children's Attainments: A Review of Methods and Findings," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 33(4), pages 1829-1878, December.
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