Job Market Paper: Working Mothers and EITC

The Job Market Paper series highlights Ph.D. students in economics working on gender-related topics and currently on the job market. Email me if you are on the junior job market and would like me to link to your paper. I will try to post as many as I can.

Jacob Bastian, University of Michigan

Paper: The Rise of Working Mothers and the 1975 Earned Income Tax Credit

The rise of working mothers radically changed the U.S. economy and the role of women in society. Time-series data show a rapid increase in the employment of mothers—relative to women without children—beginning in the mid-1970s. In one of the first systematic studies of the 1975 introduction of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), I find that this program led to a 4-percentage-point (or 7 percent) rise in maternal employment—representing about one million mothers—and conclude that the EITC can help explain why the U.S. has such a high fraction of working mothers despite few childcare subsidies or parental-leave policies. I then test whether the EITC affected attitudes towards working women. I find that states with larger EITC responses—and larger predicted responses based on pre-1975 demographic and occupational traits—had larger post-1975 increases in attitudes approving of women working. Results are largest among lower-education men—who were most exposed to these newly working women—and do not appear to be driven by pre-1975 attitudes, demographic changes, or general trends in social norms. I also use racial attitudes as a placebo outcome. As a check on whether large increases of female workers can affect social attitudes, I also find attitude changes from increased female employment during World War II.

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SPOTLIGHT: MICHELE TERTILT

tertlit

– The Spotlight series highlights the research of female economists, one at a time.

Michele Tertilt is a Professor of Economics at the University of Mannheim in Germany. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota and worked as an Assistant Professor at Stanford University before joining Mannheim. Michele is a Managing Editor at the Review of Economic Studies and an Associate Editor of the Journal of Development Economics. She is also a Research Affiliate at BREAD and the European Development Research Network (EUDN) and a Research Fellow at CEPR.

Michele’s research concentrates on macroeconomics with a special focus on development and intra-family interactions. Her work has been published in top journals, including the American Economic Review, Econometrica, the Journal of Political Economy, the Quarterly Journal of Economics, and the Review of Economic Studies.

One of her papers, jointly written with Matthias Doepke, that I really like is “Women’s Liberation: What’s in it for men?” “The nineteenth century witnessed dramatic improvements in the legal rights of married women. Given that they took place long before women gained the right to vote, these changes amounted to a voluntary renouncement of power by men.” In this paper, they “investigate men’s incentives for sharing power with women.” They “show that men face a tradeoff between the rights they want for their own wives (namely none) and the rights of other women in the economy. Men prefer other men’s wives to have rights because men care about their own daughters and because an expansion of women’s rights increases educational investments in children.” They “show that men may agree to relinquish some of their power once technological change increases the importance of human capital.” They corroborate this “argument with historical evidence on the expansion of women’s rights in England and the United States.”

For more information about Michele and her research, check out her website.