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Shocking Labor Supply: A Reassessment of the Role of World War II on U.S. Women's Labor Supply

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  • Claudia Goldin
  • Claudia Olivetti

Abstract

The most prominent feature of the female labor force across the past hundred years is its enormous growth. But many believe that the increase was discontinuous. Our purpose is to identify the short- and long-run impacts of WWII on the labor supply of women who were currently married in 1950 and 1960. We use mobilization rates for various groups of men (by age, race, fatherhood) to see whether there was a wartime impact. We find that an aggregate mobilization rate produces the largest and most robust impacts on both weeks worked and the labor force participation of married white (non-farm) women. The impact, moreover, was experienced primarily by women in the top half of the education distribution. Women who were married but without children during WWII were the group most impacted by the mobilization rate in 1950, although by 1960 WWII still influenced the labor supply decisions of them as well as those with children during WWII. We end the paper with a resolution between the watershed and revisionist views of the role of WWII on female labor supply.

Suggested Citation

  • Claudia Goldin & Claudia Olivetti, 2013. "Shocking Labor Supply: A Reassessment of the Role of World War II on U.S. Women's Labor Supply," NBER Working Papers 18676, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18676
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. 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.
    2. 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 741-756, September.
    3. 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.
    4. Raquel Fernández & Alessandra Fogli & Claudia Olivetti, 2004. "Mothers and Sons: Preference Formation and Female Labor Force Dynamics," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 119(4), pages 1249-1299.
    5. repec:hrv:faseco:30703972 is not listed on IDEAS
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J2 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor
    • N3 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy

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