Effects of family of origin on women's and men's workforce involvement

Melbourne Institute Working Paper No. 25/04

Date: September 2004


M. D. R. Evans
Jonathan Kelley


This report investigates the effects of family background on mens and womens labour force participation and on the number of hours that they work. It uses the largest dataset ever brought to bear on this topic in Australia, the combined set of 13 IsssA surveys conducted between 1984-2001 (IsssA-Pool) with over 26,000 cases.) Logistic regression and OLS models allow us to estimate the separate effects of a variety of aspects of family background. Parental education encourage participation of both men and women. The home literacy environment has effects above and beyond parental education. Maternal employment mainly affects participation of both daughters and sons. Fathers occupational status (job quality) and supervisory status affects daughters participation but not sons. Paternal self-employment does not have significant long-term effects on daughters or sons labour supply. Nor does parental income. The number of siblings in the family of origin does not affect mens workforce involvement. Women with more brothers and sisters have slightly lower labour market participation rates, but those who take jobs put in the same number of hours as women from small families. Growing up with youthful or mature parents does not seem to matter to workforce involvement for men or women. Parental divorce reduces womens labour force participation decades later, but not mens. It leads to shorter hours of employment among women and men. Immigrant men have higher labour force participation in the first generation, but not the second. Immigrant womens patterns of workforce involvement do not differ from those of longer, established Australian women, on average. Neither an urban upbringing nor private schooling has any significant effect on the time that men or women devote to the labour market.

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