Are All Recessions the Same? Husband’s Job Loss and Wives’ Labor Force Participation during Economic Downturns

Kristin Smith, University of New Hampshire
Marybeth J. Mattingly, University of New Hampshire

Previous research demonstrated that nonemployed wives often increased their labor force activity during the Great Recession when their husband stopped working. Using CPS data, we build upon this work and compare wives’ labor force response across three recessions to determine whether wives’ responded differently during the Great Recession. We find wives with husbands who stopped working more often sought work during the Great Recession than during the 1990-91 recession, but were no more likely to find a job. In contrast, during the Great Recession, wives were both more likely to enter the labor force and more likely to find a job than during the 1981-82 recession, and less likely to look for work. We also find evidence that wives may have been less particular about the jobs they took as they were more likely to enter service and less likely to enter professional/managerial occupations during the Great Recession.

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Presented in Session 5: The Impact of Economic Recession on Family Behavior