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The New Lifecycle of Women's Employment: Disappearing Humps, Sagging Middles, Expanding Tops

Claudia Goldin, Joshua Mitchell

NBER Working Paper No. 22913
Issued in December 2016
NBER Program(s):Development of the American Economy, Labor Studies

A new lifecycle of women’s employment emerged with cohorts born in the 1950s. For prior cohorts, lifecycle employment had a hump shape; it increased from the twenties to the forties, hit a peak and then declined starting in the fifties. The new lifecycle of employment is initially high and flat, there is a dip in the middle and a phasing out that is more prolonged than for previous cohorts. The hump is gone, the middle is a bit sagging and the top has greatly expanded. We explore the increase in cumulative work experience for women from the 1930s to the 1970s birth cohorts using the SIPP and the HRS. We investigate the changing labor force impact of a birth event across cohorts and by education and also the impact of taking leave or quitting. We find greatly increased labor force experience across cohorts, far less time out after a birth and greater labor force recovery for those who take paid or unpaid leave. Increased employment of women in their older ages is related to more continuous work experience across the lifecycle.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w22913

Published: Claudia Goldin & Joshua Mitchell, 2017. "The New Life Cycle of Women's Employment: Disappearing Humps, Sagging Middles, Expanding Tops," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 31(1), pages 161-182, Winter. citation courtesy of

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