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Gender Roles and Medical Progress

  • Stefania Albanesi
  • Claudia Olivetti

The entry of married women into the labor force is one of the most notable economic phenomena of the twentieth century. We argue that medical progress played a critical role in this process. Improved maternal health alleviated the adverse effects of pregnancy and childbirth on women's ability to work, while the introduction of infant formula reduced mothers' comparative advantage in infant feeding. We construct economic measures of these two dimensions of medical progress and develop a quantitative model that aims to capture their impact. Our results suggests that these advances, by enabling women to reconcile work and motherhood, were essential for the rise in married women's participation and the evolution of their economic role.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 14873.

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Date of creation: Apr 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14873
Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
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  1. Claudia Olivetti, 2006. "Changes in Women's Hours of Market Work: The Role of Returns to Experience," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 9(4), pages 557-587, October.
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  29. Raquel Fernández & Alessandra Fogli & Claudia Olivetti, 2004. "Mothers and Sons: Preference Formation and Female Labor Force Dynamics," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 119(4), pages 1249-1299, November.
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