Women's Labor Supply and the Family
Morrill, Melinda Sandler
Hellerstein, Judith K.
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The past century has seen a tremendous rise in female labor force participation. My dissertation addresses aspects of how the American family has shaped and has been shaped by rising levels of female labor supply. The first chapter provides an introduction and discussion. The second chapter describes the impact of maternal employment on children's health. While most prior research has found little effect, I argue that a woman's choice to work may reflect unobservable characteristics of the mother or child which complicates the measurement of the causal effect. I utilize exogenous variation in each child's youngest sibling's eligibility for kindergarten as an instrument for maternal employment. I find robust evidence that maternal employment increases a child's probability of having had an overnight hospitalization, injury or poisoning, or asthma episode. The third and fourth chapters analyze two possible sources of increased female labor force participation. In the third chapter, co-authored with Judith Hellerstein, we consider the role that fathers play in their daughters' occupational choices. We demonstrate that over the past century fathers have increasingly transmitted occupation-specific human capital to their daughters in response to the changing opportunities for women in the labor market. In the fourth chapter, I investigate work first published by Fernandez et al. (2004) and find evidence that contradicts their central conclusions. Their paper suggests a mechanism by which working mothers endow sons with a preference for having a working wife, which in turn leads women to choose to work more in order to attract these men. The key empirical results in their paper show a strong conditional correlation between a woman's labor supply and that of her mother-in-law when her husband was young and no similar relationship between a woman's labor supply and that of her own mother. While I confirm the former relationship in my own analysis, I find that a woman's choice to work is also highly correlated with her own mother's labor supply. While their model provides an interesting hypothesis for women's motivation to work, I find that the data do not support their conclusions.