Inter-Generational Transmission and the 21st Century Rise in Skilled Mothers' Labor Supply
45 Pages Posted: 25 Oct 2018
Date Written: October 11, 2018
By most measures, gender progress in the U.S. labor market has stagnated since the 1990s. Yet, this paper reveals that skilled U.S. mothers' full-time employment rate rose by 12 percentage points between 1999 and 2016. After ruling out several standard explanations for such a change, I hypothesize that the surge of skilled mothers entering the full-time workforce in the previous generation has induced a recent shift in household gender norms. I develop a model in which a new mother's ex ante valuation of the disutility of pursuing a career is conditioned by her own mother's prior career behavior, and find empirical support for the model in two-generation datasets constructed from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics. An accounting exercise attributes roughly 30 percent of the recent change to the model's inter-generational mechanism. Shifting norms appear to be promoting gender equality in household labor supply in the 21st century.
Keywords: mothers' labor supply, gender norms, inter-generational transmission
JEL Classification: E71, J13, J22
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation