Sandra K. Halvorsen, Norwegian School of Economics

"Factory employment and fertility decisions: Field experimental evidence from Ethiopia"


Female labor force participation and fertility rates are often found to be negatively correlated. The relationship is, however, highly endogenous and causal evidence for this claim is nearly non-existent. In this paper we use a randomized field experiment to examine the causal effect of formal employment on women’s fertility choices. The experiment was implemented in the growing industry of light-manufacturing in Ethiopia. By oversupply of applicants, entry-level candidates were randomized to either receive a job offer or to serve in a control group. The sample consists of more than 1500 married women who are followed through three survey waves over twelve months. We find that assignment to treatment slightly delays the likelihood of pregnancy, but this quickly diminishes, and in about one year’s time there was no impact of the industrial job opportunity on childbearing.  Moreover, the job did not change preferred lifetime fertility, the use of contraceptive methods, nor household decision-making power.

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