Wind of Change? Cultural Determinants of Maternal Labor Supply

80 Pages Posted: 3 Jun 2021

See all articles by Barbara Boelmann

Barbara Boelmann

University College London; University of Cologne

Anna Raute

Queen Mary University of London; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Uta Schonberg

University College London

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: 2021


Does the culture in which a woman grows up influence her labor market decisions once she has had a child? And to what extent can exposure to a different cultural group in adulthood shape maternal labor supply? To address these questions, we exploit the setting of the German reunification. A state socialist country, East Germany strongly encouraged mothers to participate in the labor market full-time, whereas West Germany propagated a more traditional male breadwinner-model. After reunification, these two cultures were suddenly thrown together, with consequent increased social interactions between East and West Germans through migration and commuting. Zooming in on East and West Germans who migrated across the former innerGerman border, we document a strong asymmetry in the persistence of the culture in which women were raised. Whereas East German female migrants return to work earlier and work longer hours than their West German colleagues even after long exposure to the more traditional West German culture, West German migrants adjust their post-birth labor supply behavior nearly entirely to that of their East German colleagues. West German return migrants continue to be influenced by the more gender egalitarian East German norm even after their return to the West, pointing towards the importance of learning from peers. Finally, taking advantage of differential inflows of East German migrants across West German workplaces in the aftermath of reunification, we show that even a partial exposure to East German colleagues induces “native” West German mothers to accelerate their return to work after childbirth, suggesting that migration might be a catalyst for cultural change.

JEL Classification: J100, J200, Z100

Suggested Citation

Boelmann, Barbara and Raute, Anna and Schonberg, Uta, Wind of Change? Cultural Determinants of Maternal Labor Supply (2021). CESifo Working Paper No. 9094, Available at SSRN:

Barbara Boelmann (Contact Author)

University College London ( email )

Gower Street
London, WC1E 6BT
United Kingdom

University of Cologne ( email )

Cologne, 50923

Anna Raute

Queen Mary University of London ( email )

Mile End Road
London, London E1 4NS
United Kingdom

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

United Kingdom

Uta Schonberg

University College London ( email )

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