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Breadwinner or caregiver? - how household role affectslabor choices in Mexico

  • Cunningham, Wendy V.

Recent volatility in the Mexican economy, has required households to alter patterns of participation in the labor force, voluntarily or not. The author uses panel data to examine patterns of labor force entry among adult men, and women with different household responsibilities, asking whether gender is a primary determinant, shaping these patterns. She finds that labor supply patterns are driven more by household role, than by gender. Heads of households, regardless of sex, behave similarly. Women who have neither spouses, nor children behave more like men, than like married women. They are also more likely than any other group to have inflexible, higher-paying jobs in the formal sector - which raises the question: Do employers discriminate, based on gender, or on household structure? She also detects a strong added-worker effect among secondary workers, a result not detected in the labor markets of developed countries that have social insurance programs. Finally she finds that wives'choice of sector during downturns, is subject to the households'earning needs, that husbands use informal wage, or contract employment as an employer of last resort, only in response to negative income shocks to the household, and that single mothers do not select the informal sector over the formal sector in response to either expected, or realized negative income shocks. The policy implications? Interventions that target women aren't necessarily appropriate, because women are heterogeneous. And programs that aid household heads - male or female - should be directed toward employment that will last beyond the economic shock.

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Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 2743.

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Date of creation: 31 Dec 2001
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Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:2743
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  1. Tim Maloney, 1987. "Employment Constraints and the Labor Supply of Married Women: A Reexamination of the Added Worker Effect," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 22(1), pages 51-61.
  2. Heckman, James J & MaCurdy, Thomas, 1982. "Corrigendum on a Life Cycle Model of Female Labour Supply," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 49(4), pages 659-60, October.
  3. Menno Pradhan & Arthur Van Soest, 1997. "Household Labor Supply In Urban Areas Of Bolivia," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 79(2), pages 300-310, May.
  4. Valletta, Robert G, 1993. "Union Effects on Municipal Employment and Wages: A Longitudinal Approach," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 11(3), pages 545-74, July.
  5. Jonathan Gruber & Julie Berry Cullen, 1996. "Spousal Labor Supply as Insurance: Does Unemployment Insurance Crowd Outthe Added Worker Effect?," NBER Working Papers 5608, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Heckman, James J & Macurdy, Thomas E, 1980. "A Life Cycle Model of Female Labour Supply," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 47(1), pages 47-74, January.
  7. Standing, Guy, 1989. "Global feminization through flexible labor," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 17(7), pages 1077-1095, July.
  8. Khandker, Shahidur R, 1988. "Determinants of Women's Time Allocation in Rural Bangladesh," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 37(1), pages 111-26, October.
  9. Maloney, Tim, 1991. "Unobserved Variables and the Elusive Added Worker Effect," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 58(230), pages 173-87, May.
  10. 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.
  11. Lundberg, Shelly, 1985. "The Added Worker Effect," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 3(1), pages 11-37, January.
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