Gender Roles and Medical Progress

41 Pages Posted: 1 Apr 2015

See all articles by Stefania Albanesi

Stefania Albanesi

University of Pittsburgh

Claudia Olivetti

Boston College; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: March 1, 2015


Maternal mortality was the second-leading cause of death for women in childbearing years up until the mid-1930s in the United States. For each death, twenty times as many mothers were estimated to suffer pregnancy-related conditions, often leading to severe and prolonged disablement. Poor maternal health made it particularly hard for mothers to engage in market work. Between 1930 and 1960, there was a remarkable reduction in maternal mortality and morbidity, thanks to medical advances. We argue that these medical advances, by enabling women to reconcile work and motherhood, were essential for the joint rise in married women’s labor force participation and fertility over this period. We also show that the diffusion of infant formula played an important auxiliary role.

Keywords: maternal Health, labor force

JEL Classification: I00, J00, J19, J21

Suggested Citation

Albanesi, Stefania and Olivetti, Claudia, Gender Roles and Medical Progress (March 1, 2015). FRB of New York Staff Report No. 720. Available at SSRN: or

Stefania Albanesi (Contact Author)

University of Pittsburgh ( email )

135 N Bellefield Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
United States

HOME PAGE: http://

Claudia Olivetti

Boston College ( email )

140 Commonwealth Avenue
Chestnut Hill, MA 02467
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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