DP5665 | Assessing the 'Engines of Liberation': Home Appliances and Female Labour Force Participation

Publication Date

02/05/2006

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Abstract

The secular rise in female labour force participation, highlighted in the recent macroeconomics literature on growth and structural change, has been associated with the declining price and wider availability of home appliances. This paper uses a new and unique country dataset on the price of home appliances to test its impact on female labour supply. We assess the role of the price of appliances in raising participation by comparing it to other structural determinants such as average male income. A decrease in the relative price of appliances - the ratio of the price of appliances to the consumer price index - leads to a substantial and statistically significant increase in female labour force participation. In the United Kingdom, for instance, the decline in the relative price of home appliances accounts alone for about 10 to 15 percent of the increase in female labour force participation from 1975 to 1999. This result is robust to the inclusion of additional controls, such as country dummies, time trend, government spending, capital to output ratio, and the growth rate of real GDP. To assess causality, we test for exogeneity and use the manufactured price index as an instrumental variable, confirming that lower appliance prices lead to increased female participation.