The Legacy of the Missing Men

The Long-Run Impact of World War I on Female Labor Force Participation

Victor Gay (University of Chicago)

January 16, 2018, 14:00–15:30


Room MS001

Job Market Seminar


I explore the pathways underlying the diffusion of women’s participation in the labor force across generations at the individual level. I rely on a severe exogenous shock to the adult sex ratio, World War I military fatalities in France, which generated a short-run upward shift in female labor force participation. I find that this shock to female labor transmitted across generations: women residing under the same institutional conditions but born in locations exposed to higher military death rates were more likely to be in the labor force from 1962 to 2012. Three primary mechanisms account for the long-run impact of World War I military fatalities on women’s working behavior: vertical intergenerational transmission (from mothers and fathers to daughters), transmission through marriage (from husbands to wives, and from mothers inlaw to daughters in-law), and oblique intergenerational transmission (from migrants to non-migrants). Consistent with theories of intergenerational diffusion of female labor force participation, I provide supporting evidence that WWI military fatalities altered preferences and beliefs about female labor in the long run.

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