Changing business cycles: The role of women’s employment

From a VOX post by Stefania Albanesi:

“The US economy has been hampered over the last four decades by three trends: the productivity slowdown, the Great Moderation, and jobless recoveries. Economists seeking to explain these phenomena have generally looked to the impact that technological change has on labour demand. This column proposes an alternative explanation: the rise and stabilisation of women’s participation in the workforce, one of the most notable developments in the post-war US. Excluding gender differences in aggregate models of the US economy obscures our understanding of business cycle behaviour and economic performance.

The rise in women’s market work is one of the most notable economic developments in the post-war United States. Female participation rose from 37% in 1960 to a peak of 61% in 1997, and then flattened out, as shown in Figure 1. This phenomenon contributed substantially to the rise in aggregate hours per person in the US in the 1970s and 1980s. While a large literature has studied the determinants of the rise in women’s employment, the implications of this phenomenon for the aggregate performance of the US economy have been left largely unexplored. At the same time, several key properties of US business cycles changed over this period, and economists have yet to provide a comprehensive explanation of those changes. Three particularly puzzling phenomena stand out:

  • the productivity slowdown in the 1970s (Jorgenson 1988) and the decline in the cyclical correlation between aggregate per capita hours and productivity (Gali and Gambetti 2009);
  • the decline in the cyclicality of output and aggregate hours starting in the early 1980s, known as the Great Moderation (Stock and Watson 2002); and
  • the sluggish growth in employment in the aftermath of recessions starting in the early 1990s, often referred to as jobless recoveries (Graetz and Michaels 2017).”

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Posted by at 9:20 AM

Labels: Inclusive Growth


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