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Demography. 1984 May;21(2):157-70.

Local labor markets, children and labor force participation of wives.


Most research on married women's labor force participation relates characteristics of individual women to their probability of labor force participation. Some studies relate characteristics of geographic areas to average labor force participation rates in those areas, although these aggregate level analyses are usually gross tests of ideas about individual-level processes. Here we take a quintessentially sociological perspective and seek to understand how characteristics of geographic areas structure the relationship between properties of individual women and their probabilities of labor force participation. Our analysis has two steps. In step one, we fit individual-level probit models of married women's probability of labor force participation. A separate model is fitted in each of 409 areas using 1970 Census data, and the relationship between individual characteristics and labor force participation is found to vary substantially across areas. In step two, we attempt to explain areal variation in the effects of women's children on their labor force participation. We hypothesize that the effect of children on their mothers' labor force participation is a function of the cost and availability of childcare , and of the "convenience" of jobs for working mothers in the places where the mothers live. Measures of childcare cost, childcare availability and job convenience are developed. Weighted least squares analyses of probit coefficients from the first stage are, in general, very consistent with our findings, and suggest that the approach taken in this paper is likely to be a fruitful one for future studies.

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