Nature or Nurture? Learning and Female Labor Force Dynamics

Alessandra Fogli, Laura Veldkamp
2007 Social Science Research Network  
Much of the increase in female labor force participation in the post-war period has come from the entry of married women with young children. Accompanying this change has been a rise in cultural acceptance of maternal employment. We argue that the concurrent S-shaped rise in maternal participation and its cultural acceptance comes from generations of women engaged in Bayesian learning about the effects of maternal employment on children. Each generation updates their parents' beliefs by
more » ... g the children of employed women. When few women participate in the labor force, most observations are uninformative and participation rises slowly. As information accumulates and the effects of labor force participation become less uncertain, more women participate, learning accelerates and labor force participation rises faster. As beliefs converge to the truth, participation flattens out. Survey data,
doi:10.2139/ssrn.986624 fatcat:njol22qvjzcthkomxxtz4utsxi