Why Are Married Women Working So Much?


Money Macro Seminar Political Economy Workshop
University of Pennsylvania

3718 Locust Walk
309 McNeil

Philadelphia, PA

United States

This paper studies the large observed changes in labor supply by married women in the United States over the period from 1950 to 1990, a period when labor supply by single females has hardly changed at all. We investigate the effects of changes in the gender wage gap,technological improvements in the production of non-market goods and potential inferiority of these goods on understanding this change. To this end we use a dynamic general equilibrium model which distinguishes between single and married households. We find that small decreases in the gender wage gap can explain simultaneously the signifcant increases in the average hours worked by married females and the relative constancy in the hours worked by single females, as well the invariance of male hours over the 1950-1990 period. The two main features of the model that account for the ability of changes to the gender wage gap to match the hours data are: endogenous specialization among married couples and human capital accumulation. We also find that technological improvements in the household have -for realistic values- too small an impact on married female hours and the relative wage of females to males. Some specifications of the inferiority of home goods do match the hours patterns, but have counterfactual predictions for wages and expenditure patterns.

For more information, contact Antonio Merlo.

Larry Jones

University of Pennsylvania

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