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Atlanta Fed Working Papers


Assessing the Impact of Education and Marriage on Labor Market Exit Decisions of Women

Julie L. Hotchkiss, M. Melinda Pitts, and Mary Beth Walker
Working Paper 2010-2
February 2010

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During the late 1990s, the convergence of women's labor force participation rates to men's rates came to a halt. This paper explores the degree to which the role of education and marriage in women's labor supply decisions also changed over this time period. Specifically, this paper investigates women's decisions to exit the labor market upon the birth of a child. The results indicate that changing exit behavior among married, educated women at this period in their lives was not likely the driving force behind the aggregate changes seen in labor force participation. Rather, changes in exit rates among single women, particularly those less educated, are much more consistent with the changing pattern of aggregate female labor force participation.

JEL classification: J22, J11

Key words: labor force participation, labor supply, labor market exit, opt out, administrative data


The authors gratefully acknowledge Nicole Baerg, Amy Ellingson, Keyung Wang, and Chunying Xie for excellent assistance. They also thank participants of the University of Colorado's Department of Economics seminar series for helpful comments. The views expressed here are the authors' and not necessarily those of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta or the Federal Reserve System. Any remaining errors are the authors' responsibility.

Please address questions regarding content to Julie L. Hotchkiss (contact author), Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta and Georgia State University, Research Department, 1000 Peachtree Street, N.E., Atlanta, GA 30309-4470, 404-498-8198, julie.l.hotchkiss@atl.frb.org; M. Melinda Pitts, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, Research Department, 1000 Peachtree Street, N.E., Atlanta, GA 30309-4470, 404-498-7009, melinda.pitts@atl.frb.org; or Mary Beth Walker, Georgia State University, Department of Economics, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA 30302-3992, 404-413-0254, mbwalker@gsu.edu.

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