Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Children and the Timing of Women's Paid Work after Childbirth: A Further Specification of the Relationship

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Children and the Timing of Women's Paid Work after Childbirth: A Further Specification of the Relationship

Article excerpt

The concept of opportunity cost of time, Cox hazards models, and data on 597 women from the 1983-1987 waves of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics are used to analyze when women start paid work following a birth. By the beginning of month 5 after delivery, half of the women had started paid work. Work status during pregnancy has the largest effect on the timing, but family income, the federal income tax rate, and home ownership also matter. Of several measures for children, having a second or fourth child are the only ones related to the timing of paid work, if work status during pregnancy is not controlled for.

Differences in women's and men's roles in the birth and rearing of children have been cited as an important reason why women do not fare as well as men in the labor force (Fuchs, 1988; Gronau, 1988). According to this argument, women's advancement and wages are lower because women accumulate less work experience and lose human capital and seniority as they interrupt work during the childbearing years (e.g., Corcoran & Duncan, 1979; Ferber & Spaeth, 1984; Gronau & Weiss, 1981; Mincer & Polachek, 1974). This difference in childrearing responsibilities has led to the suggestion that two classes of jobs be created: jobs for women primarily committed to their work and jobs for women on the "mommy track" (Schwartz, 1989). Despite the prevalence of this argument and recommendations based on it, only a few studies have investigated the extent to which women interrupt their labor force participation when they have a child.

Past cross-sectional studies have found that there is a strong negative correlation between all young children in the family and female labor force participation or hours worked (Browning, 1992). However, it is increasingly the case that even women with small children work (Lehrer & Nerlove, 1986). At this point it is not well understood how children other than the firstborn influence the timing of women's employment after childbirth since most earlier research on timing is either restricted to women's first births, or it is based on information from the late 1960s to early 1970s. There are reasons to expect that the timing of paid work may differ for women who have a first or subsequent child. For example, juggling work and child-care schedules is easier for one rather than several children, and child-care costs are lower. This study addresses this omission by paying particular attention to the role of all children in the family and by using data from the 1980s.

Describing how long women stay home with their infants is also of interest because child development experts have suggested that the amount of time parents spend with their children is critical to children's social and emotional development, especially during the first year of life (Belsky, 1990). Some experts are concerned that parents may not stay home long enough. Knowing what factors prolong or shorten the time women spend away from work should make it easier to develop and evaluate policies designed to influence female labor force involvement. This is relevant not only out of concern for our children's well-being, but also in light of a predicted shortage of workers in the near future (Bloom & Steen, 1988; Kutscher, 1987).

The goal of this study is to provide empirical evidence on women's labor force participation behavior following a birth. In particular, this article describes how soon after giving birth women start paid work and it identifies factors related to this decision. It differs from earlier studies on the timing of work in several ways. In addition to assessing the role of all children in the timing of employment for women who had children in the 1980s, the analysis is not limited to a subset of women, such as women who worked during pregnancy or women who had their first child. This is an important extension of previous studies since it has been shown that results based on such subsets are prone to sample selection bias (Heckman, 1979; Mrotz, 1987). …

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