The Baby Boom and World War II: The Role of Labor Market Experience

Moshe Hazan, Department of Economics, Hebrew University

The past century has witnessed major changes in the economic choices
of American women. Over the long term, there has been a marked trend towards
lower fertility and higher female labor force participation. However,
change did not occur in a uniform fashion: during the post-war Baby Boom,
fertility rates increased substantially, until the long-term downward trend
reestablished itself in the 1960s. Similarly, the labor market participation of
younger women declined for a while during the same period. What can explain
these reversals? In this paper, we propose a joint explanation for these
changes through a single shock: the demand for female labor during World
War II. Many of the women of the war generation continued to work after
the war. We argue that this crowded out younger women from the labor
market, who chose to have more children instead.

Date: 18 October-00 0000