Work Environment and Opt-Out Rates at Motherhood across High-Education Career Paths
Observing a sample of Harvard alumnae in their late thirties, the authors study the relationship between workplace flexibility and the labor force participation of mothers. They first document a large variation in labor force participation rates across higher education fields. Mindful of the possibility of systematic patterns in the types of women who complete various graduate degrees, they use the rich information available for the sample, supplemented by the longitudinal nature of a subset of these data, to assess the extent to which these labor supply patterns may reflect variation in the difficulty of combining work with family. Although ruling out systematic sorting entirely is not possible, their evidence suggests that inflexible work environments “push” women out of the labor force at motherhood.