NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Work Environment and “Opt-Out" Rates at Motherhood Across High-Education Career Paths

Jane Leber Herr, Catherine Wolfram

NBER Working Paper No. 14717
Issued in February 2009
NBER Program(s):   LS

Using data from the 2003 National Survey of College Graduates and a sample of Harvard alumnae, we study the relationship between work environment and the labor force participation of mothers. We first document a large variation in labor force participation rates across high-education fields. Mindful of the possibility of systematic patterns in the types of women who complete different graduate degrees, we use the rich information available in each dataset, and the longitudinal nature of the Harvard data, to assess the extent to which these labor supply patterns may reflect variation in the difficulty of combining work with family. While it is difficult to entirely rule out systematic sorting, our evidence suggests that non-family-friendly work environments “push” women out of the labor force at motherhood.

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This paper was revised on December 5, 2011

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w14717

Published: Title: Work environment and opt-out rates at motherhood across high-education career paths Author(s): Herr J L, Wolfram C D Journal: Industrial and Labor Relations Review, Oct 2012, Volume: 65 Issue: 4 pp.928-950 (23 pages) Issn: 0019-7939

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