Family Proximity, Childcare and Women's Labor Force Attachment

February 10, 2012

In a new paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research, authors Janice Compton and Robert A. Pollak show that close geographical proximity to mothers or mothers-in-law has a substantial positive effect on the labor supply of married women with young children.  They argue that the mechanism through which proximity increases labor supply is the availability of childcare.  They interpret availability broadly enough to include not only regular scheduled childcare during work hours but also an insurance aspect of proximity (e.g., a mother or mother-in-law who can provide irregular or unanticipated childcare).

  • Using two large datasets, the National Survey of Families and Households and the public use files of the U.S. Census, Compton and Pollak find that the predicted probability of employment and labor force participation is 4 to 10 percentage points higher for married women with young children living in close proximity to their mothers or their mothers-in-law compared with those living further away.
  • They find no proximity effect for those demographic groups that would not benefit from the availability of childcare: married women whose mothers or mothers-in-law are in poor health, and women with only older children or no children.
  • They also find no proximity effect for unmarried women with young children, a non-result they attribute to the inelastic labor supply of unmarried women with children which makes them unresponsive to the availability of childcare.

Source: Janice Compton and Robert A. Pollak, "Family Proximity, Childcare and Women's Labor Force Attachment," National Bureau of Economic Research, December 2011.

For text:

http://www.nber.org/papers/w17678

 

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