Demographic Transition and Gender Gap in the Labor Market 

The Countervailing Implication of the Second Gender Revolution Among College Graduates in the US 

(Wonjeong Jeong, under review

 The decline of gender gaps in the US labor market has stagnated, especially among the highly educated. This paper focuses on family formation, which here is defined as one being a parent or in a marriage. The family has been identified as an increasingly important factor in sustaining the gender earnings gap. At the same time, in line with the Second Gender Revolution thesis, highly educated women have displayed the slowest rates of decline in marriage and fertility, rendering them the most likely to be situated within familial contexts. 

This paper bridges these two lines of trend and literature and assesses the extent to which college graduates' (especially women's) changes in the family are associated with the stagnation of the gender employment, earnings, and hourly wages gap from the early 1980s to the late 2010s. Using a decomposition of change, I show that had the family formation patterns of college-educated women and men remained unchanged since the 1980s, the gender employment gap would have shown the most pronounced narrowing among the three outcomes, with an additional 14% reduction. Although the overall association of family change with the gender earnings and wages gaps is more modest (at 7% and 1%, respectively), a closer examination of the detailed decomposition calls for a more nuanced interpretation. 

Results demonstrate 1) the importance of the underlying demographic trends on the gender gaps in the labor market, 2) different implications on various outcomes, and 3) the usefulness of the detailed decomposition analyses. 

Transition to Parenthood

The Devaluation of Women's Work and the Relative Earnings of New Parents 

(Kelly Musick & Wonjeong Jeong, under review)

In this paper, we draw from gender perspectives on the division of labor and emerging research on structural sexism and health to conceptualize and operationalize state-level gender inequality and how it shapes within-couple inequality in earnings following the transition to parenthood. 

We use successive couple-level panels over four decades from the Current Population Survey (CPS) and merge the earnings changes of both partners’ around the time of first birth to state-level measures that tap the devaluation of work done by women. These include motherhood wage and employment penalties, lower pay for female-dominated occupations, disapproval of working mothers, and weaker political representation of women. 

Results from fixed effect models show that state-level gender inequality shapes couples’ responses to birth, with steeper declines in wives’ relative earnings among new parents living in states that place lower value on women’s work. We find little evidence of variation in this process across more or less advantaged subgroups of the population, by child age, or over time. Wives’ relative earnings decline after childbirth, and structural sexism exacerbates earnings inequality among parents, with implications for mothers’ economic vulnerability and well-being.

Partner's Long Work Hours and Changes in New Parent's Employment over Forty Years 

(Kelly Musick & Wonjeong Jeong, working paper)

We build on recent research emphasizing the role of long and inflexible work hours in constraining women’s employment and exacerbating gender inequalities in employment and earnings. 

Our analysis draws on a couple perspective and focuses on how partners’ long work hours shape employment following the transition to parenthood.  Results from fixed-effect models show that partners’ pre-birth work hours moderate wives’ employment and work hours changes following first birth, with new mothers pulling back from work to a greater extent when their partners work long hours. Husbands’ employment and work hours, by contrast, are not sensitive to partners’ long work hours. We find little evidence of change over 40 years in the moderating role of partners’ long hours on own employment following birth. 

Our results are consistent with earlier findings about the importance of husbands’ work hours for wives’ employment. They shed new light on couple dynamics at the critical transition to parenthood and document persistence in husbands’ work hour patterns and associations with wives’ employment over time.

Gender Norm vs. Policy

When Gender Norms Don’t Match Institutions: Her Earnings Share Change after First Birth in Korea 

(w/ Hyo Joo Lee, under review)

Transition into parenthood leads to a rearrangement of time and resources within couples due to increased caretaking demands. Women often retreat from their paid labor depending on their husbands’ work arrangements, resulting in a decline in their relative economic position within the couple. Institutional support for work and family may reduce the within-couple disparities in the labor market outcomes, but without corresponding gender egalitarianism, it may be insufficient. 

South Korea provides an interesting case where institutional support is strong, but gender norms are not egalitarian. We use an event study approach wih individual fixed effects from the longest and nationally representative panels of the Korean Labor and Income Panel Study. 

We find that Korean women experience a decline in their share of couple earnings following first birth, which takes them more than 10 years to achieve parity regardless of their education level. Heterogeneity within gender exists, with highly educated women experiencing a smaller decline in their share of earnings than the less educated counterpart. However, work- family policy expansion grounded on traditional gender ideology resulted in sharper and prolonged decline in women’s share of earnings. 

Results imply that expanding the benefits of work-family policies may result in temporary withdrawals from work by a selected group of women rather than promoting gender equality.

Gendered Space

‘Living Gender’: Examining the Gendered Allocation of Household Space 

(w/ Cody Arlie Reed, in progress)

In this work, we explore the relationship between gendered allocation of household space and disparities in household activities performed by women and men. Building on existing literature, this study will examine household space as a medium for moderating gendered activities. We will use a novel survey design, using a 2-dimensional blueprint of a two-story house, to prompt respondents to envision their ideal household space and describe its use in relation to gendered activities.

** this work is supported by the Center for the Study of Inequality at Cornell University (2023-2024)