Moms at Work: The Dynamics of Maternal Employment

Publication Date


Grant Type

Early Career Research Award


Maternal employment rates have risen substantially over recent decades, but 3 in 10 mothers of minor children are not employed, and 5 in 10 do not work full time, with the majority of nonemployed mothers reporting that they would prefer employment. At the same time, women’s employment decisions have become less correlated with their own wages and those of their husbands, suggesting that policies attempting to use financial incentives to increase maternal employment may be inadequate. We will use sequence analysis and data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 (NLSY79) to describe maternal employment patterns over 18 years of maternity. This approach acknowledges that negotiation of the work-family intersection is an ongoing challenge. Using multinomial logit models, we will then examine how maternal employment patterns vary with the traits of women and their occupations, including occupations’ percent female, returns to experience, and typical work hours. Our results will thus suggest labor market regulations and policies that might promote maternal employment by altering the non-financial traits of work, as well as describe the different supports for combining work and family that may be necessary for mothers at different positions in the economic distribution.

Grant Product

Mothers' Long-Term Employment Patterns
Upjohn Institute Working Paper No. 15-247, 2015

Killewald, Alexandra and Xiaolin Zhuo. 2019. "U.S. Mothers' Long-Term Employment Patterns." Demography 56: 285-320.