Mothers' Employment and Children's Educational Gender Gap

Xiaodong Fan, Hanming Fang, Simen Markussen

NBER Working Paper No. 21183
Issued in May 2015
NBER Program(s):Economics of Education, Labor Studies, Public Economics

This paper analyzes the connection between two concurrent trends since 1950: the narrowing and reversal of the educational gender gap and the increased labor force participation rate (LFPR) of married women. We hypothesize that the education production for boys is more adversely affected by a decrease in the mother's time input as a result of increasing employment. Therefore, an increase in the labor force participation rate of married women may narrow and even reverse the educational gender gap in the following generation. We use micro data from the Norwegian registry to directly show that the mother's employment during her children's childhood has an asymmetric effect on the educational achievement of her own sons and daughters. We also document a positive correlation between the educational gender gap in a particular generation and the LFPR of married women in the previous generation at the U.S. state level. We then propose a model that generates a novel prediction about the implications of these asymmetric effects on the mothers' labor supply decisions and find supporting evidence in both the U.S. and Norwegian data.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w21183

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