Shocking Labor Supply: A Reassessment of the Role of World War II on U.S. Women's Labor Supply

Claudia Goldin, Claudia Olivetti

NBER Working Paper No. 18676
Issued in January 2013
NBER Program(s):Development of the American Economy, Labor Studies

The most prominent feature of the female labor force across the past hundred years is its enormous growth. But many believe that the increase was discontinuous. Our purpose is to identify the short- and long-run impacts of WWII on the labor supply of women who were currently married in 1950 and 1960. We use mobilization rates for various groups of men (by age, race, fatherhood) to see whether there was a wartime impact. We find that an aggregate mobilization rate produces the largest and most robust impacts on both weeks worked and the labor force participation of married white (non-farm) women. The impact, moreover, was experienced primarily by women in the top half of the education distribution. Women who were married but without children during WWII were the group most impacted by the mobilization rate in 1950, although by 1960 WWII still influenced the labor supply decisions of them as well as those with children during WWII. We end the paper with a resolution between the watershed and revisionist views of the role of WWII on female labor supply.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w18676

Published: Goldin, Claudia, and Claudia Olivetti. 2013. "Shocking Labor Supply: A Reassessment of the Role of World War II on Women's Labor Supply." American Economic Review, 103(3): 257-62. citation courtesy of

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