Review of Economics of the Household

, Volume 12, Issue 2, pp 209-235

First online:

Gender, added-worker effects, and the 2007–2009 recession: Looking within the household

  • Martha A. StarrAffiliated withDepartment of Economics, Kreeger Hall 118, American University Email author 

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The U.S. recession of 2007–2009 saw unemployment rates for men rise by significantly more than those for women, resulting in the downturn’s characterization as a ‘mancession’. This paper uses data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to reexamine gender-related dimensions of the 2007–2009 recession. Unlike most previous work, we analyze data that connects men’s and women’s employment status to that of their spouses. A difference-in-difference framework is used to characterize how labor-market outcomes for one spouse varied according to outcomes for the other. Results show that that employment rates of women whose husbands were non-employed rose significantly in the recession, while those for people in other situations held steady or fell—consistent with the view that women took on additional bread-winning responsibilities to make up for lost income. However, probabilities of non-participation did not rise by more for men with working wives than they did for other men, casting doubt on ideas that men in this situation made weaker efforts to return to work because they could count on their wives’ paychecks to support the household.


Recession Gender American Community Survey Added-worker effect

JEL classification

D13 E32 J22 J12