IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

Gender roles and technological progress

  • Stefania Albanesi
  • Claudia Olivetti

    ()

    (Boston University)

The purpose of this paper is to study how progress in home production technologies and in medical technologies influences gender differences in labor market outcomes and the household division of labor, in an economy with endogenous gender roles. We consider a model in which incentive problems on the labor market play a crucial role in the emergence of unequal labor market outcomes across genders. In turn, the differential labor market outcomes influence gender roles within the household, thus generating a feedback mechanism. Households in our economy efficiently choose how to optimally allocate time of each spouse to the production of a home public good, produced with home hours and market goods. We view children as a crucial component of this good. Biological gender differences, namely women's ability to bear children, will be reflected in the spouses' relative productivity in the production of the home public good. We model this by allowing women's marginal productivity to be greater than men's in the home production function. We assume that female and male workers are equally productive in market work. Women's comparative advantage in home production can be interpreted as tied to the decreased market productivity of women during and after pregnancy. Alternatively, it captures women's higher contribution to the nourishment of children via breast feeding. A consequence of women's comparative advantage is that they will optimally allocate more time to home work than men. The extent of this difference, however, also depends on the degree of substitutability in the spouses' home hours and on other features of the home production technology, such as the contribution of market goods and the level of technological progress in home production. Each individual in our model is also employed by firms to produce market goods, which requires time, market hours, and effort. As argued by Becker (1977) and Holmstrom and Milgrom (1991), if an agent increases the amount of time or attention devoted to one activity, the marginal cost of other activities increases. Hence, we assume that higher home hours increase the marginal cost of market hours and effort. We also assume that effort is private information, while market hours and output are observed. Given the higher marginal cost of market work for workers with higher home hours, the optimal labor contracts will assign lower market hours, effort and earnings to these workers. Hence, women's higher home hours will determine a negative differential in earnings, market hours and effort, relative to men. The incentive problem in the labor market, due to the unobservability of effort, provides an amplification mechanism for the relative productivity differences across genders. As a result, the equilibrium gender differences in earnings will be greater than the relative productivity difference. The feedback mechanism between labor market outcomes and household decisions on home production determines the equilibrium allocation of home versus market hours across genders and the gender earnings differential. We interpret this process as an endogenous attribution of gender roles. Since earnings are decreasing in home hours, the households' opportunity cost of home hours is decreasing in home hours. Hence, the labor market outcome also influences the households' trade-off between market goods versus home hours in home production. We analyze the effects of progress in home production and in medical technologies in the context of our model. There was a rapid diffusion of consumer durables, such as home appliances, in the post-war period, as documented by Greenwood, Seshadri, Yorukoglu (2005). This can be interpreted as a reflection of technological progress in home production. Advancement in medical technologies with an impact on home production occurred prior to this. Specifically, in the mid 1930's, childbirth became increasingly medicalized, leading to a sharp decline in maternal mortality rates between 1936 and 1956, which reduced the physical cost of pregnancy. Over the same period, there was also a rapid decline in the price of breast milk substitutes. This reduced mothers' required contribution to the nourishment of infants. We argue that both these developments determined a decline in women's comparative advantage in home production. Improvements in these medical technologies continued after 1955, however, at a more gradual pace. On this basis, we conclude that the introduction of new home appliances likely played a dominant role after 1955. Greenwood, Seshadri, Yorukoglu (2005) argue that the introduction of home appliances is a critical determinant of rising female labor force participation in the course of the twentieth century. However, the widespread diffusion of household appliances only started in the 1950's. Before World War II, household appliances were primarily adopted by wealthy households, and their labor savings effects mostly resulted in a reduction in the number of servants (Cowan, 1983). Female labor force participation increased from 24.8% in 1930 to 29.8% in 1947. This increase is arguably mostly related to the changes in medical technologies rather than to progress in consumer durables. Female labor force participation continued to increase in the post-war period, rising from 35.7% in 1955 to 46.3% in 1975. The effect of improved home production technologies should dominate that of medical technologies over this period. We use our model to show how these different sources of technological progress impact gender differentials in labor market outcomes and home hours. We find that improvements in medical technologies determine a significant decline in female home hours and gender differentials on the labor market. The endogeneity of earnings differentials and their negative dependence on home hours, however, dampens the equilibrium effects of improvements in home production technologies.

To our knowledge, this item is not available for download. To find whether it is available, there are three options:
1. Check below under "Related research" whether another version of this item is available online.
2. Check on the provider's web page whether it is in fact available.
3. Perform a search for a similarly titled item that would be available.

Paper provided by Society for Economic Dynamics in its series 2006 Meeting Papers with number 411.

as
in new window

Length:
Date of creation: 03 Dec 2006
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:red:sed006:411
Contact details of provider: Postal: Society for Economic Dynamics Christian Zimmermann Economic Research Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis PO Box 442 St. Louis MO 63166-0442 USA
Fax: 1-314-444-8731
Web page: http://www.EconomicDynamics.org/society.htm
Email:


More information through EDIRC

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Raquel Fernandez & Alessandra Fogli, 2005. "Culture: an empirical investigation of beliefs, work, and fertility," Staff Report 361, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  2. Claudia Goldin & Lawrence F. Katz, 2000. "The Power of the Pill: Oral Contraceptives and Women's Career and Marriage Decisions," NBER Working Papers 7527, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Chiappori, P.A., 1994. "Introducing Household Production in Collective Models of Labour Suply," DELTA Working Papers 94-18, DELTA (Ecole normale supérieure).
  4. Hammond, Peter J, 1976. "Changing Tastes and Coherent Dynamic Choice," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 43(1), pages 159-73, February.
  5. Richard Blundell & Pierre-Andr� Chiappori & Costas Meghir, 2005. "Collective Labor Supply with Children," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 113(6), pages 1277-1306, December.
  6. Claudia Goldin, 1990. "Understanding the Gender Gap: An Economic History of American Women," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number gold90-1, December.
  7. Jesus Fernandez-Villaverde & Arijit Mukherji, 2002. "Can We Really Observe Hyperbolic Discounting?," Levine's Working Paper Archive 391749000000000478, David K. Levine.
  8. David M Kreps & Evan L Porteus, 1978. "Temporal Resolution of Uncertainty and Dynamic Choice Theory," Levine's Working Paper Archive 625018000000000009, David K. Levine.
  9. Jeremy Greenwood & Ananth Seshadri & Guillaume Vandenbroucke, 2005. "The Baby Boom and Baby Bust," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(1), pages 183-207, March.
  10. Efe A Ok & Yusufcan Masatlioglu, 2003. "A General Theory of Time Preferences," Levine's Bibliography 234936000000000089, UCLA Department of Economics.
  11. Jeremy Greenwood & Nezih Guner, 2004. "Marriage and Divorce since World War II: Analyzing the Role of Technological Progress on the Formation of Households," NBER Working Papers 10772, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. John Knowles, 2005. "Why are Married Men Working So Much?," PIER Working Paper Archive 05-031, Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania.
  13. Neville Francis & Valerie A. Ramey, 2005. "A Century of Work and Leisure," 2005 Meeting Papers 250, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  14. Albanesi, Stefania & Olivetti, Claudia, 2005. "Home Production, Market Production and the Gender Wage Gap: Incentives and Expectations," CEPR Discussion Papers 4984, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  15. Browning, Martin & Francois Bourguignon & Pierre-Andre Chiappori & Valerie Lechene, 1994. "Income and Outcomes: A Structural Model of Intrahousehold Allocation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(6), pages 1067-96, December.
  16. Loewenstein, George & Prelec, Drazen, 1992. "Anomalies in Intertemporal Choice: Evidence and an Interpretation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 107(2), pages 573-97, May.
  17. Paola Manzini & Marco Mariotti, 2007. "Choice over Time," Working Papers 605, Queen Mary University of London, School of Economics and Finance.
  18. Jeremy Greenwood & Ananth Seshadri & Mehmet Yorukoglu, 2002. "Engines of Liberation," Economie d'Avant Garde Research Reports 2, Economie d'Avant Garde.
  19. Luis Cabral, 2007. "Lock in and Switch: Asymmetric Information and New Product Diffusion," Working Papers 07-11, New York University, Leonard N. Stern School of Business, Department of Economics.
  20. Svetlana Boyarchenko & Sergei Levendorskii, 2005. "Discount factors ex post and ex ante, and discounted utility anomalies," Microeconomics 0510013, EconWPA, revised 17 Nov 2005.
  21. Tjalling C. Koopmans, 1959. "Stationary Ordinal Utility and Impatience," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 81, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  22. Todd Sarver, 2008. "Anticipating Regret: Why Fewer Options May Be Better," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 76(2), pages 263-305, 03.
  23. Read, Daniel, 2001. " Is Time-Discounting Hyperbolic or Subadditive?," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 23(1), pages 5-32, July.
  24. Maurizio Mazzocco, 2007. "Household Intertemporal Behaviour: A Collective Characterization and a Test of Commitment," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 74(3), pages 857-895.
  25. Read, Daniel & Roelofsma, Peter H. M. P., 2003. "Subadditive versus hyperbolic discounting: A comparison of choice and matching," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 91(2), pages 140-153, July.
  26. Larry E. Jones & Rodolfo E. Manuelli & Ellen R. McGrattan, 2003. "Why are married women working so much?," Staff Report 317, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  27. Charles Hirschman & Marilyn Butler, 1981. "Trends and differentials in breast feeding: An update," Demography, Springer, vol. 18(1), pages 39-54, February.
  28. Chiappori, Pierre-Andre, 1988. "Rational Household Labor Supply," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 56(1), pages 63-90, January.
  29. Shane Frederick & George Loewenstein & Ted O'Donoghue, 2002. "Time Discounting and Time Preference: A Critical Review," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(2), pages 351-401, June.
  30. Anke Gerber & Kirsten I.M. Rohde, 2007. "Anomalies In Intertemporal Choice?," Swiss Finance Institute Research Paper Series 07-12, Swiss Finance Institute.
  31. Martha J Bailey, 2006. "More Power to the Pill: The Impact of Contraceptive Freedom on Women's Life Cycle Labor Supply," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 121(1), pages 289-320, 02.
  32. Thaler, Richard, 1981. "Some empirical evidence on dynamic inconsistency," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 8(3), pages 201-207.
  33. Rios-Rull, Jose-Victor, 1993. "Working in the Market, Working at Home, and the Acquisition of Skills: A General-Equilibrium Approach," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(4), pages 893-907, September.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:red:sed006:411. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Christian Zimmermann)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.