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Women Prefer Larger Governments: Female Labor Supply and Public Spending

  • Cavalcanti, Tiago V. de V.
  • Tavares, Jose

The increase in income per capita is accompanied, in virtually all countries, by two changes in the structure of the economy: an increase in the share of government spending in GDP and an increase in female labor force participation. This paper suggests that the changes in female labor force participation and government size are not just coincident in time, they are causally related. We develop a growth model with endogenous fertility, labor force participation and government size to illustrate this causal link. When government consumption and/or subsidies decrease the cost of performing household chores - including, but not limited to child rearing and child care - an increase in the female market wage leads to an increase in labor force participation by women and a demand for higher government spending. As women make the decision to work outside the home, they increase their demand for services typically provided by the government, such as education and health care, which, in turn, decrease the cost of home and family activities that are overwhelmingly performed by women. We show, for a wide cross-section of developed and developing countries, that higher female participation rates in the labor market are positively associated with larger governments. We investigate the causal link by instrumenting for female labor force participation with the prevalence of contraceptive methods and the relative price of household appliances. Female labor force participation is found to cause an increase in government size, with a 10 percent rise in the former leading to a 6.5 to 9 percent rise in the latter. This e.ect is stronger for government consumption than for government subsidies and is robust to the country sample, time period, and a set of controls in the spirit of Rodrik (1998).

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Paper provided by Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Faculdade de Economia in its series FEUNL Working Paper Series with number wp433.

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Length: 23 pages
Date of creation: 2003
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:unl:unlfep:wp433
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  1. Dani Rodrik, 1998. "Why Do More Open Economies Have Bigger Governments?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 106(5), pages 997-1032, October.
  2. Goldin, Claudia, 1992. "Understanding the Gender Gap: An Economic History of American Women," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195072709, May.
  3. Jaisri Gangadharan & Joshua Rosenbloom & Joyce Jacobson & James Wishart Pearre III, 1996. "The Effects of Child-Bearing on Married Women's Labor Supply and Earnings: Using Twin Births as a Natural Experiment," NBER Working Papers 5647, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Meltzer, Allan H & Richard, Scott F, 1981. "A Rational Theory of the Size of Government," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(5), pages 914-27, October.
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  7. Greenwood, Jeremy & Seshadri, Ananth, 2005. "Technological Progress and Economic Transformation," Handbook of Economic Growth, in: Philippe Aghion & Steven Durlauf (ed.), Handbook of Economic Growth, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 19, pages 1225-1273 Elsevier.
  8. Oded Galor & David N. Weil, 1993. "The Gender Gap, Fertility, and Growth," NBER Working Papers 4550, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. John R. Lott & Jr. & Lawrence W. Kenny, 1999. "Did Women's Suffrage Change the Size and Scope of Government?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(6), pages 1163-1198, December.
  10. Tanzi,Vito & Schuknecht,Ludger, 2000. "Public Spending in the 20th Century," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521664103, june. pag.
  11. A. Chevalier & T. K. Viitanen, 2002. "The causality between female labour force participation and the availability of childcare," Applied Economics Letters, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 9(14), pages 915-918.
  12. David N. Weil & Oded Galor, 2000. "Population, Technology, and Growth: From Malthusian Stagnation to the Demographic Transition and Beyond," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(4), pages 806-828, September.
  13. Daron Acemoglu & David H. Autor & David Lyle, 2002. "Women, War and Wages: The Effect of Female Labor Supply on the Wage Structure at Mid-Century," NBER Working Papers 9013, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Sam Peltzman, 1980. "The Growth of Government," University of Chicago - George G. Stigler Center for Study of Economy and State 1, Chicago - Center for Study of Economy and State.
  15. Husted, Thomas A & Kenny, Lawrence W, 1997. "The Effect of the Expansion of the Voting Franchise on the Size of Government," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(1), pages 54-82, February.
  16. Claudia Olivetti, 2006. "Changes in Women's Hours of Market Work: The Role of Returns to Experience," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 9(4), pages 557-587, October.
  17. Case, Anne & Paxson, Christina, 2001. "Mothers and others: who invests in children's health?," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(3), pages 301-328, May.
  18. Sherwin Rosen, 1996. "Public Employment and the Welfare State in Sweden," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 34(2), pages 729-740, June.
  19. Patricia M. Anderson & Phillip B. Levine, 1999. "Child Care and Mothers' Employment Decisions," JCPR Working Papers 64, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
  20. Jeremy Greenwood & Ananth Seshadri & Guillaume Vandenbroucke, 2002. "The baby boom and baby bust: some macroeconomics for population economics," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, issue Nov.
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