Children and Their Parents' Labor Supply: Evidence from Exogenous Variation in Family Size

Joshua D. Angrist, William N. Evans

NBER Working Paper No. 5778
Issued in September 1996
NBER Program(s):Labor Studies

Although theoretical models of labor supply and the family are well developed, there are few credible estimates of key empirical relationships in the work-family nexus. This study uses a new instrumental variable, the sex composition of the first two births in families with at least two children, to estimate the effect of additional children on parents' labor supply. Instrumental variables estimates using the sex mix are substantial but smaller than the corresponding ordinary least squares (OLS) estimates. Moreover, unlike the OLS estimates, the female labor supply effects estimated using sex-mix instruments appear to be absent among more educated women and women with high-wage husbands. We also find that married women who have a third child reduce their labor supply by as much as women in the full sample, while there is no relationship between wives' child-bearing and husbands' labor supply. Finally results to estimates produced using twins to generate instruments. Estimates using twins instruments are very close to the estimates generated by sex-mix instruments, once the estimators are corrected for differences in the ages of children whose birth was caused by the instruments. The estimates imply that the labor supply consequences of child-bearing disappear by the time the child is about 13 years old.

download in pdf format
   (1736 K)

email paper

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w5778

Published: American Economic Review (June 1998). citation courtesy of

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded* these:
Lazear and Michael w0230 Family Size and the Distribution of Per Capita Income
Angrist and Krueger w3572 Does Compulsory School Attendance Affect Schooling and Earnings?
Angrist and Krueger w8456 Instrumental Variables and the Search for Identification: From Supply and Demand to Natural Experiments
Becker and Tomes w0123 Child Endowments, and the Quantity and Quality of Children
Card and Krueger w4509 Minimum Wages and Employment: A Case Study of the Fast Food Industry in New Jersey and Pennsylvania
NBER Videos

National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email:

Contact Us