The Effect of Fertility on Mothers' Labor Supply over the Last Two Centuries

100 Pages Posted: 14 Feb 2017

See all articles by Daniel Aaronson

Daniel Aaronson

Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago

Rajeev H. Dehejia

New York University (NYU) - Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA); CESifo

Andrew Jordan

University of Chicago

Cristian Pop-Eleches

Columbia University - School of International & Public Affairs (SIPA)

Cyrus Samii

New York University (NYU) - Wilf Family Department of Politics

Karl Schulze

Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: February 10, 2017

Abstract

This paper documents the evolving impact of childbearing on the work activity of mothers between 1787 and 2014. It is based on a compiled data set of 429 censuses and surveys, representing 101 countries and 46.9 million mothers, using the International and U.S. IPUMS, the North Atlantic Population Project, and the Demographic and Health Surveys. Using twin births (Rosenzweig and Wolpin 1980) and same gendered children (Angrist and Evans 1998) as instrumental variables, we show three main findings: (1) the effect of fertility on labor supply is small and often indistinguishable from zero at low levels of income and large and negative at higher levels of income; (2) these effects are remarkably consistent both across time looking at the historical time series of currently developed countries and at a contemporary cross section of developing countries; and (3) the results are robust to other instrument variation, different demographic and educational groups, rescaling to account for changes in the base level of labor force participation, and a variety of specification and data decisions. We show that the negative gradient in female labor supply is consistent with a standard labor-leisure model augmented to include a taste for children. In particular, our results appear to be driven by a declining substitution effect to increasing wages that arises from changes in the sectoral and occupational structure of female jobs into formal nonagricultural wage employment as countries develop.

Keywords: Twins, Same-Sex, Instrumental Variables, Development, Economic History

JEL Classification: F63, F66, J00, J13, N00

Suggested Citation

Aaronson, Daniel and Dehejia, Rajeev H. and Jordan, Andrew and Pop-Eleches, Cristian (Kiki) and Samii, Cyrus and Schulze, Karl, The Effect of Fertility on Mothers' Labor Supply over the Last Two Centuries (February 10, 2017). NYU Wagner Research Paper No. 2915334. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2915334 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2915334

Daniel Aaronson

Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago ( email )

230 South LaSalle Street
Chicago, IL 60604-1413
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Rajeev H. Dehejia (Contact Author)

New York University (NYU) - Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service ( email )

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HOME PAGE: http://users.nber.org/~rdehejia/

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

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HOME PAGE: http://users.nber.org/~rdehejia/

Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) ( email )

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CESifo ( email )

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Andrew Jordan

University of Chicago

Cristian (Kiki) Pop-Eleches

Columbia University - School of International & Public Affairs (SIPA) ( email )

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United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.columbia.edu/~cp2124

Cyrus Samii

New York University (NYU) - Wilf Family Department of Politics ( email )

715 Broadway
New York, NY 10003
United States

Karl Schulze

Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago ( email )

230 South LaSalle Street
Chicago, IL 60604
United States

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