Opting out and leaning in: the life course employment profiles of early Baby Boom women in the United States
Most literature on female employment focuses on the intersection between women¿s labor supply and family events such as marriage, divorce, or childbearing. Even when using longitudinal data and methods, most studies estimate average net effects over time and assume homogeneity among women. Less is known about diversity in women¿s cumulative work patterns over the long run. Using group-based trajectory analysis, I model the employment trajectories of early Baby Boom women in the United States from ages 20 to 54. I find that women in this cohort can be classified in four ideal-type groups: those who were consistently detached from the labor force (21 %), those who gradually increased their market attachment (27 %), those who worked intensely in young adulthood but dropped out of the workforce after midlife (13 %), and those who were steadily employed across midlife (40 %). I then explore a variety of traits associated with membership in each of these groups. I find that (1) the timing of family events (marriage, fertility) helps to distinguish between groups with weak or strong attachment to the labor force in early adulthood; (2) external constraints (workplace discrimination, husband¿s opposition to wife¿s work, ill health) explain membership in groups that experienced work trajectory reversals; and (3) individual preferences influence labor supply across women¿s life course. This analysis reveals a high degree of complexity in women¿s lifetime working patterns, highlighting the need to understand women¿s labor supply as a fluid process.