IZA DP No. 11085: Maternal Employment and Child Outcomes: Evidence from the Irish Marriage Bar
This paper investigates the relationship between maternal employment and child outcomes using micro-data collected in the third wave of The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing. A novel source of exogenous variation in the employment decisions of women is used to investigate this relationship. Between the 1920s and the 1970s in Ireland, women working in certain sectors and jobs were required to leave their jobs once they married. The majority of women affected by this "Marriage Bar" then became mothers and never returned to work, or returned only after several years. Regression analysis is used to compare the educational attainment of the children of mothers who were required to leave employment on marriage because of the Marriage Bar to the educational attainment of the children of mothers who were not required to do so. It is found that the children of mothers affected by the Marriage Bar were about seven percentage points more likely to complete university education than the children of mothers who were not. This is a sizeable effect when compared to the observation that about 40% of the children in the sample completed university education. This effect is found to be robust to alternative specifications that include variables aimed at controlling for differences in maternal occupation, personality traits, and differences in paternal education.