DP10218 | Transmission of preferences and beliefs about female labor market participation: direct evidence on the role of mothers

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Recently, economists have established that culture defined as a common set of preferences and beliefs?affects economic outcomes, including the levels of female labor force participation. Although this literature has argued that culture is transmitted from parents to children, it has also recognized the difficulty in empirically disentangling the parental transmission of preferences and/or beliefs from other confounding factors, such as technological change or investment in education. Using church registry data from the 18th and 19th centuries, our primary contribution is to interpret the effect of a mother?s labor participation status on that of her daughter as the mother-to-daughter transmission of preferences and/or beliefs that are isolated from confounding effects. Because our data are characterized by abundant non-ignorable missing information, we estimate the participation model and the missing process jointly by maximum likelihood. Our results reveal that the mother?s working status has a large and statistically significant positive effect on the daughter?s probability of working. These findings suggest that intergenerational family transmission of preferences and/or beliefs played a decisive role in the substantial increases in female labor force participation that occurred later.