Explaining changes in married mothers’ employment over time

Abstract

Employment of married mothers with preschool children rose dramatically between 1971 and 1990. Using CPS data, we find that about one-fifth of the increase in labor supply can be attributed to changes in mothers’ demographic characteristics (age, education, and number of children). Changes in the earnings opportunities of new mothers and their husbands explain another one-fifth of the growth in employment. Over the two decades, infants up to three months old became less of a barrier to employment, while women’s labor supply became more sensitive to their own earnings opportunities and less sensitive to those of their husbands.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  1. Browning, M. 1992. “Children and Household Economic Behavior.” Journal of Economic Literature 30:1434–75.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Dooley, M.D. 1994. “The Converging Market Work Patterns of Married Mothers and Lone Mothers in Canada.” Journal of Human Resources 29:600–20.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Even, W.E. 1987. “Career Interruptions Following Childbirth.” Journal of Labor Economics 5(2):255–77.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Gronau, R. 1973. “The Effect of Children on the Housewife’s Value of Time.” Journal of Political Economy 81(2):S168–99.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Hayghe, H.V. 1986. “Rise in Mothers’ Labor Force Activity Includes Those with Infants.” Monthly Labor Review 109(2):43–45.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Karoly, L. and J. Klerrnan. 1994. “Using Regional Data to Reexamine the Contribution of Demographic and Sectoral Changes to Increasing U.S. Wage Inequality.” Pp. 183–216. in The Changing Distribution of Income in an Open U.S. Economy, edited by I.H. Bergstrand, T.F. Cosimano, I.W. Houck, and R.G. Sheehan. Amsterdam: North Holland.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Klerrnan, I.A. and A. Leibowitz. 1994. “The Work-Employment Distinction among Mothers of Very Young Children.” Journal of Human Resources 29:277–303.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Lichter, D.T. and J.A. Costanzo. 1987. “How Do Demographic Changes Affect Labor Force Participation of Women?” Monthly Labor Review 110(11):23–25.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Mincer, I. 1962. “Labor Force Participation of Married Women.” Pp. 63–105 in Aspects of Labor Economics, edited by H.G. Lewis. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Mroz, T.A. 1987. “The Sensitivity of an Empirical Model of Married Women’s Hours of Work to Economic and Statistical Assumptions.” Econometrica 55(4):765–99.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. O’Connell, M. 1990. “Maternity Leave Arrangements: 1961–85.” U.S. Bureau of the Census, Current Population Reports, Series P-23(165): 11–57, Work and Family Patterns of American Women. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

    Google Scholar 

  12. Shapiro, D. and L.B. Shaw. 1983. “Growth in the Labor Force Attachment of Married Women: Accounting for Changes in the 1970’s. Southern Economic Journal 50:461–73.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Smith, J. and M.P. Ward. 1984. “Women’s Wages and Work in the Twentieth Century.” Santa Monica: RAND, R-3119-NICHD.

    Google Scholar 

  14. —. 1985. “Times Series Growth in the Female Labor Force.” Journal of Labor Economics 3(1, Part 2):S59-S90.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. —. 1989. “Women in the Labor Market and in the Family.” Journal of Economic Perspectives 3(1):9–23.

    Google Scholar 

  16. U.S. Bureau of the Census. 1990. Statistical Abstract of the United States. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

    Google Scholar 

  17. —. 1992. Statistical Abstract of the United States. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

    Google Scholar 

  18. —. 1993. Statistical Abstract of the United States. Washington, DC: U. S. Government Printing Office.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Arleen Leibowitz.

Additional information

The research reported here has been supported by Grant P-50-HD-12639 from the Center for Population Research, National Institute for Child Health and Human Development. to the Population Research Center, The RAND Corporation. We are grateful to Kim McGuigan, who helped create the earnings models. We thank Bob Young, Patricia St. Clair and Mary Layne for their excellent programming. Jerene Kelly helped prepare the manuscript. The construction of the earnings models was partially funded by Grant ROI-HD 31203 from the Center for Population Research, National Institute for Child Health and Human Development, to RAND.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Leibowitz, A., Klerman, J.A. Explaining changes in married mothers’ employment over time. Demography 32, 365–378 (1995). https://doi.org/10.2307/2061686

Download citation

Keywords

  • Labor Supply
  • Labor Force Participation
  • Local Labor Market
  • Reservation Wage
  • Market Work