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Estimating the Causal Effect of Fertility on Women’s Employment in Africa Using Twins
Authors: Eelke de Jong, Jeroen Smits, and Abiba Longwe
Source: World Development, 90: 360-368; DOI: 10.1016/j.worlddev.2016.10.012
Topic(s): Employment
Women’s empowerment
Country: Africa
  Multiple African Countries
Published: FEB 2017
Abstract: Women’s employment is considered essential for gender equality and female empowerment, as well as for the living standard, dependency burden, and saving patterns of households in poor countries. To develop effective policies, it is important to know whether mothers with young children who are not gainfully employed prefer to be at home and care for their children, or are involuntarily out of the labor force, because they could not prevent getting those children. In this study having twins is used as the external shock due to which some women have obtained more children than they wanted. These women are compared with those who are similar in many respects (married and have at least one child) but did not experience this shock. We use a newly constructed database that contains information on almost 250,000 women living in Sub-Saharan Africa of whom 4,863 women, or about 2%, reported a twin birth of which both children survived. To our knowledge, the present study has the highest number of twins of any Instrumental Variables study that uses twins for estimating causal effects, so that the estimates are very precise. We find that the number of children below age six has a significantly negative effect on the woman’s ability to work in the non-farm sector; it reduces the odds of employment of African mothers by 6%. The effects of the number of young children on women’s non-farm work are more problematic for older women and for women with more years of education. These findings imply that investments in family planning are likely to enhance the opportunities for women to work for pay and that policies aimed at facilitating the combination of child rearing and paid labor are particularly important for educated and older women.