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Early Child Development and Maternal Labor Force Participation: Using Handedness as an Instrument

  • Paul Frijters



  • David W. Johnston


  • Manisha Shah



  • Michael A. Shields


We estimate the effect of early child development on maternal labor force participation using data from teacher assessments. Mothers might react to having a poorly developing child by dropping out of the formal labor force in order to spend more time with their child, or they could potentially increase their labor supply to be able to provide the funds for better education and health resources. Which action dominates is therefore the empirical question we seek to answer in this paper. Importantly, we control for the potential endogeneity of child development by using an instrumental variables approach, uniquely exploiting exogenous variation in child development associated with child handedness. We find that having a poorly developing young child reduces the probability that a mother will participate in the labor market by about 25 percentage points.

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Paper provided by National Centre for Econometric Research in its series NCER Working Paper Series with number 27.

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Date of creation: 02 Aug 2008
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:qut:auncer:2008-16
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  1. Currie, Janet & Stabile, Mark, 2006. "Child mental health and human capital accumulation: The case of ADHD," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(6), pages 1094-1118, November.
  2. 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.
  3. Christopher J. Ruhm, 2004. "Parental Employment and Child Cognitive Development," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(1).
  4. Johnston, David W. & Shah, Manisha & Shields, Michael A., 2007. "Handedness, Time Use and Early Childhood Development," IZA Discussion Papers 2752, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  5. Kevin Denny & Vincent O’ Sullivan, 2007. "The Economic Consequences of Being Left-Handed: Some Sinister Results," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 42(2).
  6. Kevin Denny & Vincent O'Sullivan, 2004. "The economic consequences of being left-handed : some sinister results (version 2.0)," Working Papers 200422, School of Economics, University College Dublin.
  7. David S. Salkever, 1982. "Children's Health Problems and Maternal Work Status," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 17(1), pages 94-109.
  8. Christopher S. Ruebeck & Joseph E. Harrington, Jr. & Robert Moffitt, 2006. "Handedness and Earnings," NBER Working Papers 12387, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Hope Corman & Kelly Noonan & Nancy E. Reichman, 2005. "Mother's Labor Supply in Fragile Families: The Role of Child Health," Eastern Economic Journal, Eastern Economic Association, vol. 31(4), pages 601-616, Fall.
  10. Elizabeth T. Powers, 2001. "New Estimates of the Impact of Child Disability on Maternal Employment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(2), pages 135-139, May.
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