Preference Formation and the Rise of Women's Labor Force Participation: Evidence from WWII
This paper presents intergenerational evidence in favor of the hypothesis that a significant factor explaining the increase in female labor force participation over time was the growing presence of men who grew up with a different family model--one in which their mother worked. We use differences in mobilization rates of men across states during WWII as a source of exogenous variation in female labor supply. We show, in particular, that higher WWII male mobilization rates led to a higher fraction of women working not only for the generation directly affected by the war, but also for the next generation. These women were young enough to profit from the changed composition in the pool of men (i.e., from the fact that WWII created more men with mothers who worked). We also show that states in which the ratio of the average fertility of working relative to non-working women is greatest, have higher female labor supply twenty years later.