Staff Report 317

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Why Are Married Women Working So Much?

Larry E. Jones - Visiting Scholar
Rodolfo E. Manuelli
Ellen R. McGrattan - Consultant

Revised September 2, 2014

We study the large observed changes in labor supply by married women in the United States over the post-World War II period, a period when labor supply by single women has hardly changed at all. We investigate the effects of changes in the gender wage gap, technological improvements in the production of nonmarket goods, and potential inferiority of these goods on understanding this change. We find that small decreases in the gender wage gap can explain simultaneously the significant increases in the average hours worked by married women and the relative constancy in the hours worked by single women, and single and married men. 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 match the hours patterns, but have counterfactual predictions for wages and expenditure patterns.

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