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The Effect of Maternal Employment on Children's Academic Performance

  • Rachel Dunifon
  • Anne Toft Hansen
  • Sean Nicholson
  • Lisbeth Palmhøj Nielsen

Using a Danish data set that follows 135,000 Danish children from birth through 9th grade, we examine the effect of maternal employment during a child's first three and first 15 years on that child's grade point average in 9th grade. We address the endogeneity of employment by including a rich set of household control variables, instrumenting for employment with the gender- and education-specific local unemployment rate, and by including maternal fixed effects. We find that maternal employment has a positive effect on children's academic performance in all specifications, particularly when women work part-time. This is in contrast with the larger literature on maternal employment, much of which takes place in other contexts, and which finds no or a small negative effect of maternal employment on children's cognitive development and academic performance.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w19364.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 19364.

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Date of creation: Aug 2013
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19364
Note: ED LS
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  1. Ruhm, Christopher J., 2000. "Parental leave and child health," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(6), pages 931-960, November.
  2. Richard J. Murnane & John B. Willett & Frank Levy, 1995. "The Growing Importance of Cognitive Skills in Wage Determination," NBER Working Papers 5076, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Greve, Jane, 2011. "New results on the effect of maternal work hours on children's overweight status: Does the quality of child care matter?," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(5), pages 579-590, October.
  4. Christopher J. Ruhm, 2000. "Parental Employment and Child Cognitive Development," NBER Working Papers 7666, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Suzanne Bianchi, 2000. "Maternal employment and time with children: Dramatic change or surprising continuity?," Demography, Springer, vol. 37(4), pages 401-414, November.
  6. Paul Gregg & Elizabeth Washbrook & Carol Propper & Simon Burgess, 2005. "The Effects of a Mother's Return to Work Decision on Child Development in the UK," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 115(501), pages F48-F80, 02.
  7. Michael Baker & Kevin Milligan, 2010. "Evidence from Maternity Leave Expansions of the Impact of Maternal Care on Early Child Development," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 45(1).
  8. Rucker Johnson & Ariel Kalil & Rachel Dunifon, 2012. "Employment Patterns of Less-Skilled Workers: Links to Children’s Behavior and Academic Progress," Demography, Springer, vol. 49(2), pages 747-772, May.
  9. Susanne James-Burdumy, 2005. "The Effect of Maternal Labor Force Participation on Child Development," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 23(1), pages 177-211, January.
  10. Charles L. Baum II, 2003. "Does Early Maternal Employment Harm Child Development? An Analysis of the Potential Benefits of Leave Taking," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 21(2), pages 381-408, April.
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