The Determinants of Specialization Within Marriage
For recent cohorts of American couples, the traditional division of labor between husbands and wives is strongly associated with the presence of children in the household. We define measures of specialization and market intensity in household house worked and earnings to describe the joint allocation of time and effort by married men and women. Using longitudinal data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, we estimate the changes in the outcomes that follow the birth of a couple’s first child, and the association of these changes with parental education, factors related to divorce risk, and birth cohort. On average, specialization increases and market intensity falls, but we find evidence of considerable heterogeneity in the effects of children o household behavior, including the responses of fathers. Married couples from later birth cohorts specialize less in response to the birth of their first child, as do couples who eventually divorce. The gender of the first child has, surprisingly, a significant impact on the market intensity of the parents’ response.
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