Econometrica: Jul 1987, Volume 55, Issue 4

The Sensitivity of an Empirical Model of Married Women's Hours of Work to Economic and Statistical Assumptions<765:TSOAEM>2.0.CO;2-S
p. 765-799

Thomas A. Mroz

This study undertakes a systematic analysis of several theoretic and statistical assumptions used in many empirical models of female labor supply. Using a single data set (PSID 1975 labor supply data) we are able to replicate most of the range of estimated income and substitution effects found in previous studies in this field. We undertake extensive specification tests and find that most of this range should be rejected due to statistical and model misspecifications. The two most important assumptions appear to be (i) the Tobit assumption used to control for self-selection into the labor force and (ii) exogeneity assumptions on the wife's wage rate and her labor market experience. The Tobit models exaggerate both the income and wage effects. The exogeneity assumptions induce an upwards bias in the estimated wage effect; the bias due to the exogeneity assumption on the wife's labor market experience, however, substantially diminishes when one controls for self-selection into the labor force through the use of unrestricted generalized Tobit procedures. An examination of the maintained assumptions in previous studies further supports these results. These inferences suggest that the small responses to variations in wage rates and nonwife income found here provide a more accurate description of the behavioral responses of working married women than those found in most previous studies.

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