The Effect of Fertility on Mothers' Labor Supply over the Last Two Centuries

Daniel Aaronson, Rajeev Dehejia, Andrew Jordan, Cristian Pop-Eleches, Cyrus Samii, Karl Schulze

NBER Working Paper No. 23717
Issued in August 2017, Revised in February 2018
NBER Program(s):Development of the American Economy, Development Economics, Labor Studies

Using a compiled dataset of 441 censuses and surveys between 1787 and 2015, representing 103 countries and 48.4 million mothers, we find that: (1) the effect of fertility on labor supply is typically indistinguishable from zero at low levels of development and large and negative at higher levels of development; (2) the negative gradient is stable across historical and contemporary data; and (3) the results are robust to identification strategies, model specification, and data construction and scaling. Our results are consistent with changes in the sectoral and occupational structure of female jobs and a standard labor-leisure model.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w23717

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