Barbara Petrongolo, University of Oxford
Structural transformation and U-shapes female employment
We build a consistent measure of female employment for the US over the last one hundred and fifty years -- encompassing intensive and extensive margins -- combining data from the US population Census and several early state-level surveys on various personal and economic circumstances of individuals. The resulting measure of employment, which includes paid work as well as unpaid work in family business and corrects for other sources of under-reporting, displays a U-shape over time.
We empirically and theoretically relate the U-shaped labour supply to the process of structural transformation, and namely the reallocation of labour from female-intensive agriculture into male-intensive manufacturing at early stages of development, and from manufacturing into female-intensive services at later stages. We propose a multisector model of the economy, where the interplay between uneven productivity growth and consumption complementarities across sectors predicts the modernization of agriculture and decline of family farms, the rise in manufacturing and services, and the marketization of home production. The downward portion of the U-shaped pattern is associated with the decline in agricultural employment and the disappearance of the family farm, while the upward portion is driven by the expansion of the service economy, to the detriment of manufacturing, and the marketization of home production.
Barbara Petrongolo is a Professor of Economics at the University of Oxford and a Professorial Fellow at Nuffield College. She is Director of the CEPR Labour Economics Programme and Research Associate at the Centre for Economic Performance of the London School of Economics. She previously held positions at Queen Mary University of London, the London School of Economics, the Paris School of Economics and the University of Carlos III (Madrid). She is currently managing co-editor of the Economic Journal. Her primary research interests are in labour economics. She has worked extensively on the performance of labour markets with job search frictions, with applications to unemployment dynamics, welfare policy and interdependencies across local labour markets. Her work also researches the causes of gender inequalities in labour market outcomes, in a historical perspective and across countries, with emphasis on the role of employment selection mechanisms, structural transformation, and interactions within the household.
CEBI contact: Jakob Egholt Søgaard