The Causal Impact of Motherhood on Female Employment

Whitney Schott, University of Pennsylvania

Scholars have long noted the negative relationship between labor force participation and fertility for women, but determining the causal impact of motherhood on employment has been more challenging. This paper employs an instrumental variable approach to estimate the causal impact of becoming a mother, as opposed to remaining childless, on likelihood of employment and months worked in the past year, using data from the National Survey of Family Growth. Findings suggest that motherhood leads to a decline in participation of 25 percentage points overall for married or partnered women with at least one child, and 20 percentage points when all women are considered, regardless of marital status. Married or partnered women with at least one child are estimated to work 4.0 fewer months out of the year than childless women, while the equivalent result for the sample of all women is 2.6 fewer months.

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Presented in Poster Session 3