Nature or Nurture? Learning and Female Labour Force Dynamics

44 Pages Posted: 23 May 2008

See all articles by Alessandra Fogli

Alessandra Fogli

Leonard N. Stern School of Business - Department of Economics

Laura Veldkamp

Columbia University - Columbia Business School; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: June 2007

Abstract

Much of the increase in female labour force participation in the post-war period has come from the entry of married women with young children. Accompanying this change has been a rise in cultural acceptance of maternal employment. We argue that the concurrent S shaped rise in maternal participation and its cultural acceptance comes from generations of women engaged in Bayesian learning about the effects of maternal employment on children. Each generation updates their parents' beliefs by observing the children of employed women. When few women participate in the labour force, most observations are uninformative and participation rises slowly. As information accumulates and the effects of labour force participation become less uncertain, more women participate, learning accelerates and labour force participation rises faster. As beliefs converge to the truth, participation flattens out. Survey data, wage data and participation data support our mechanism and distinguish it from alternative explanations.

Keywords: female labour force participation, information diffusion, labor supply, preference transmission, S-shaped learning

JEL Classification: E2, J21, N32, Z1

Suggested Citation

Fogli, Alessandra and Veldkamp, Laura, Nature or Nurture? Learning and Female Labour Force Dynamics (June 2007). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP6324, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1136650

Alessandra Fogli (Contact Author)

Leonard N. Stern School of Business - Department of Economics ( email )

269 Mercer Street
New York, NY 10003
United States
212-998-0872 (Phone)

Laura Veldkamp

Columbia University - Columbia Business School ( email )

3022 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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