Explaining Trends in “Opting Out” among Women, 1981-2006

Cordelia Reimers, City University of New York
Pamela Stone, Hunter College (CUNY)

Using data from the March 1982-2007 CPS and other sources, we analyze trends in “opting out” among women using a direct measure of this behavior: that a woman was not employed last year because she was “taking care of home or family.” Our previous work focused on college-educated mothers, for whom we found that less than 30 percent of the run-up in staying home since 1993 (and none of the pre-1993 decline) was due to factors measured by the CPS: geographic location, personal characteristics, family composition and income. This paper will extend this analysis to all women and expand our earlier probit model to include measures of family wealth, workplace demands, the gender wage gap, and child care costs derived from other sources. The results will enhance our understanding of a high-profile and poorly understood phenomenon, and shed light on women’s decision-making concerning work and family.

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Presented in Session 53: Work and Family