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Title:Racial Differences in Wives' Labor Force Participation
Author(s):Rexroat, Cynthia Ann
Department / Program:Sociology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Sociology, Individual and Family Studies
Abstract:This research examined the effects of labor market structure and early life-course events of the family on racial differences in wives' labor force participation. Previous research had been unable to identify determinants of black wives' labor force participation. Variables that have a large significant effect on the labor force status of white wives--their educational attainment, their husband's earnings and the age composition of their children--have no appreciable effect for blacks. Further, previous studies investigating wives' labor force participation report conflicting results in explaining why the labor force participation rate of black wives is considerably higher than that of white wives. Some studies report race differences in personal and family characteristics explain black wives' higher rates. Other studies attribute the racial differential to a difference in effects those characteristics have on labor force participation.
A structural model for estimating the probability of wives' labor force participation was formulated which included four classes of variables: labor market structure, family formation, family composition, and family economic status. I argued that black wives' decision to seek employment would vary with contextual effects of the labor market and not supply characteristics traditionally included in labor force participation research. Compared to white husbands, the earnings and employment status of black husbands are subject to greater year-to-year variability. Thus black wives' labor force participation may be needed more regularly to maintain the family's basic expenditure patterns. Although black wives may form a regularly available labor pool, few jobs will be obtained if employment opportunities are poor. The extent of employment opportunities has been shown to vary across labor markets.
The data utilized in this study are drawn from the National Longitudinal Study of the Labor Market Experiences of Young Women. The first wave of the NLS was fielded in 1968 and sampled about 5,000 young women 14 to 24 years old. The sample used consisted of women who married and initiated childbearing between 1968 and 1971 and who were currently married in 1971. Since I tested the effects of labor market characteristics on timing of the first birth, I selected the 1968-1971 time interval because the NLS data do not report these characteristics prior to 1968.
Given the constraints imposed both by the data and proposed model, the selected sample may not be representative of all wives. If the selected sample is not random, structural parameter estimates could be biased. A procedure for testing and correcting sample selection bias was used to obtain unbiased parameter estimates. A recursive, path analytic model was then estimated which identified wives' labor force participation as a function of labor market characteristics, family economic status, family composition and family formation. The model was estimated separately for blacks and whites.
A major finding of this research was that two labor market characteristics representing employment opportunities for black women are most effective in explaining the labor force participation of black wives. Metropolitan residence and a high demand for female labor significantly increase black wives' labor force participation rate. Hence this study was able to identify some of the determinants of black wives' labor force status.
Further, analyzing the racial differential in wives' labor force participation revealed that variable effects account for the larger part of the differential. The net effect of manipulating variable slopes would be a twelve percent increase in black wives' labor force participation, while equalizing variable means would reduce black wives' labor force participation by seven percent. Hence, changing variable effects for blacks would widen the racial differential in wives' labor force participation.
Issue Date:1980
Description:190 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1980.
Other Identifier(s):(UMI)AAI8108635
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-12-14
Date Deposited:1980

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