The Effect of Fertility on Mothers’ Labor Supply Over the Last Two Centuries
75 Pages Posted: 21 Aug 2017 Last revised: 22 Apr 2021
Date Written: August 2017
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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