The Intergenerational Correlation of Employment: Mothers as Role Models


Linking data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 (NLSY79) and the NLSY79 Children and Young Adults, we document a substantial positive correlation of employment status between mothers and their offspring in the United States. After controlling for ability, education, fertility and wealth, offspring of permanently employed mothers have an 11 percentage-point higher probability to be employed in each given year than those of never employed mothers. The intergenerational transmission of maternal employment is stronger to daughters but significant also to sons. Investigating potential mechanisms, we provide suggestive evidence for a role model channel, through which labor force participation may be transmitted. Offspring seem to emulate the example of their mother when they observe her working. By contrast, we are able to rule out several alternative candidate explanations such as network effects, occupation-specific human capital and local conditions of the labor market.

Revise & Resubmit (2nd round), Labour Economics