Working Couples, After Childbirth

Wives’ financial contributions have become a crucial component of the marriage bargain, yet wives continue to shoulder a disproportionate share of domestic responsibilities. This is particularly true after a first child is born.

Kelly Musick, Policy Analysis and Management, and her team are examining trends in couples’ work and earnings in the years following childbirth and the implications of couple-level processes for changes in aggregate inequality over time. They are tackling critical gaps in the literature on how couples negotiate roles within marriage.

Understanding the processes that generate inequality is critical given its strong links to poorer health and well-being. The researchers are using four decades of successive, short-run panels from the Current Population Survey (CPS) to assess changes in husbands’ and wives’ work and earnings following a first birth. These data are the largest and longest running longitudinal data source in the U.S. and are virtually untapped for research on family dynamics and change.

The research has five specific goals: develop and make syntax publicly available to produce a couple-level, longitudinal CPS database for 1976-2015; examine trends following childbirth; examine how trends in the division of market employment vary, following childbirth by both of the couples’ prior earnings; link couple-level changes in work and earnings to aggregate inequality; and assess the implications of increases in divorce and non-marital childbearing, examining trends in unmarried mothers’ employment and earnings and their contributions to aggregate inequality.

What the researchers learn will be directly relevant for understanding past, current, and future patterns in the health of Americans. Understanding how parents arrange work and family demands will also benefit policy initiatives around marriage and parental leave.

NIH Award Number: 1R01HD091125-01A1

Cornell Researchers

Funding Received

$1.03 Million spanning 3 years