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American Economic Review: Vol. 103 No. 1 (February 2013)

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Cultural Change as Learning: The Evolution of Female Labor Force Participation over a Century

Article Citation

Fernández, Raquel. 2013. "Cultural Change as Learning: The Evolution of Female Labor Force Participation over a Century." American Economic Review, 103(1): 472-500.

DOI: 10.1257/aer.103.1.472

Abstract

This paper develops a learning model of cultural change to investigate why women's labor force participation (LFP) and attitudes toward women’s work both changed dramatically. In the model, women's beliefs about the long-run payoff from working evolve endogenously via an intergenerational learning process. This process generically generates the data's S-shaped LFP curve and introduces a novel role for wage changes via their effect on the speed of intergenerational learning. The calibrated model does a good job of replicating the evolution of female LFP in the United States over the last 120 years and finds that the new role for wages was quantitatively significant.

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Authors

Fernández, Raquel (NYU and IZA, Bonn)

JEL Classifications

D83: Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief
J16: Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
J22: Time Allocation and Labor Supply
J31: Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
N31: Economic History: Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy: U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913
N32: Economic History: Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy: U.S.; Canada: 1913-
Z13: Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Social and Economic Stratification


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