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The Effects of Child-Bearing on Married Women's Labor Supply and Earnings: Using Twin Births as a Natural Experiment

  • Jaisri Gangadharan
  • Joshua Rosenbloom
  • Joyce Jacobson
  • James Wishart Pearre III

Married women's decisions about child-bearing and market work are importantly interrelated. Although there are many estimates of the effects of fertility on female labor supply few of them have adequately addressed the problems of simultaneity inherent in these choices. In this paper, we use exogenous variations in fertility due to twin births to measure the impact of an unanticipated child on married women's labor supply and earnings. We find that the short-run effects of an unanticipated birth on labor supply are appreciable and have increased in magnitude as more mothers enter the labor market. It also appears that the impact of unanticipated births on earnings and wages has changed from 1980 to 1990. In 1980 reduced labor supply caused a temporary drop in earnings, but in 1990 earnings and wages remained depressed well after the labor supply effects of a twin birth had disappeared.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 5647.

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Date of creation: Jul 1996
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Publication status: published as Journal of Human Resources, Vol. 34, no. 3 (Summer 1999): 449-474.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:5647
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  1. Juster, F Thomas & Stafford, Frank P, 1991. "The Allocation of Time: Empirical Findings, Behavioral Models, and Problems of Measurement," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 29(2), pages 471-522, June.
  2. Thomas Mroz, . "The Sensitivity of an Empirical Model of Married Women's Hours of Work to Economic and Statistical Assumptions," University of Chicago - Population Research Center 84-8, Chicago - Population Research Center.
  3. Heckman, James J, 1974. "Shadow Prices, Market Wages, and Labor Supply," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 42(4), pages 679-94, July.
  4. Evelyn L. Lehrer, 1992. "The Impact of Children on Married Women's Labor Supply: Black-White Differentials Revisited," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 27(3), pages 422-444.
  5. V. Joseph Hotz & Robert A. Miller, . "An Empirical Analysis of Life Cycle Fertility and Female Labor Supply," University of Chicago - Population Research Center 86-15, Chicago - Population Research Center.
  6. Fuchs, Victor R, 1989. "Women's Quest for Economic Equality," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 3(1), pages 25-41, Winter.
  7. Bronars, Stephen G & Grogger, Jeff, 1994. "The Economic Consequences of Unwed Motherhood: Using Twin Births as a Natural Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(5), pages 1141-56, December.
  8. 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.
  9. Jacob Mincer, 1962. "Labor Force Participation of Married Women: A Study of Labor Supply," NBER Chapters, in: Aspects of Labor Economics, pages 63-105 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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