Do young children prohibit mothers from working? A study in the Amhara Region, Ethiopia

Chalachew Getahun Desta


Theoretical work relating economic effect of children suggests that labor market participation decreases for mothers with large number of young children and increases when children are adults. The majority of empirical studies find results consistent with this expectation, but there are some studies which fail to confirm this theoretical prediction for the developing countries. This paper used data from a household survey of rural and urban married women to test the theoretical prediction that labor market participation decreases for mothers with large number of young children and increases when children are adults. Results show that when all households are considered, children seem to have positive effects on the probability of the mother’s work participation. However, when household lifecycle and rural-urban location differences are considered, coefficients are negative (but not statistically insignificant) for urban households with large number of young children and positive (and statistically significant) for those households with more adult children; whereas for rural households, these coefficient signs are reversed. Results from the quantitative data combined with qualitative narratives suggest that large numbers of young children do not prohibit rural mothers from working.


endogenous fertility; childcare and maternal work; observed fertility; predicted fertility; productive work

Full Text:



Aassve A and Arpino B (2007). Estimation of Causal Effects of Fertility on Economic Wellbeing: Evidence from Rural Vietnam. ISER Working Paper No. 24. University of Essex and University of Florence.

Adda J, Dustmann C and Stevens K (2011). The career costs of children. IZA Discussion paper No. 6201. Institute for the Study of Labor.

Aghajanian A (1979). Family economy and economic contribution of children in Iran: An overview. Journal of South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, 35(1): 21-30.

Angrist JD and Evans W (1998). Children and their parents’ labor supply: evidence from exogenous variation in family size. The American Economic Review, 88(3): 450-477.

Arbache JS, Kolev A and Filipiak E (2010). Why study gender disparities in africa’s labor market? In: Arbache JS, Kolev A and Filipiak E (eds.). Gender Disparities in Africa’s Labor Market. (pp 357-377) Washington D. C.: The World Bank. 10.1596/978-0-8213-8066-6.

Assaad R and Zouari S (2003). Estimating the Impact of Marriage and Fertility on the Female Labor Force Participation when Decisions are Interrelated: Evidence from Urban Morocco. Topics in Middle Eastern and North African Economies, Vol. 5. Middle East Economic Association and Loyola University Chicago.

Becker GS (1960). An economic analysis of fertility. In: Universities-National Bureau (eds.). Demographic and Economic Change in Developed Countries. Columbia: Columbia University Press.

Bezu S and Holden S (2014). Are rural youth in Ethiopia abandoning agriculture? World Development, 64: 259-272. http://dx.doi. org/10. 1016/j. worlddev.2014.06.013.

Bloom D, Canning D, Fink G, et al. (2009). Fertility, female labor force participation, and the demographic dividend. Journal of Economic Growth, 14(2): 79-101.

Boserup E (1985). Economic and demographic interrelationships in Sub-Saharan Africa. Population and Development Review, 11(3): 383-397.

Browning M and Crossley T (2001). The life-cycle model of consumption and saving. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 15(3): 3-22.

Cáceres-Delpiano J (2008). Keeping the Best for Last: Impact of Fertility on Mother’s Employment: Evidence from developing countries. Working paper 08-68 No. 32. Universidad Carlos De Madrid.

Caldwell J and Caldwell P (1987). The Cultural context of high fertility in Sub Saharan Africa. Population and Development Review, 13(3): 409-435.

Central Statistical Agency of Ethiopia and ORC Macro (2000). The Ethiopian Demographic Health Survey. Addis Ababa.

Central Statistical Agency of Ethiopia and ORC Macro (2005). The Ethiopian Demographic Health Survey. Addis Ababa.

Central Statistical Agency of Ethiopia and ORC Macro (2011). Ethiopia Demographic and Health Survey 2011: Preliminary report. Addis Ababa.

Chernichovsky D (1978). Personal savings and family size and composition: The unresolved issue. Economic and Demographic Change, 345-360.

Cho, Y (2006). An Analysis of Women’s Fertility and Labor Supply: Implications for Family Policies. Paper presented at International Conference on Declining Fertility in East and Southeast Asian Countries, December 14-15, Tokyo.

Chun H and Oh J (2002). An instrumental variable estimate of the effect of fertility on the labor force participation of married women. Applied Economics Letters, 9: 631-634. 0.

Cruces G and Galiani S (2007). Fertility and female labor supply in Latin America: New causal evidence. Labour Economics, 14(3): 565-573.

Davies J (1988). Family size, household production, and life cycle saving. Annales D’economie Et De Statistique, 9: 141-165. https://doi. org/10.2307/20075685.

Davis P and Baulch B (2011). Parallel realities: Exploring poverty dynamics using mixed methods in rural Bangladesh. The Journal of Development Studies, 47(1): 118-142.

Desta CG (2013). Fertility and maternal hours of work in Ethiopia: A case study in the Amhara region. African Population Studies, 27(2): 89-104.

Dupta ND and Dubey A (2003). Poverty and Fertility: An Instrumental Variables Analysis on Indian Micro Data. Working paper series 11. Department of Economics, Aarhus School of Business.

Erosa A, Fuster L and Restuccia D (2016). A quantitative theory of the gender gap in wages. European Economic Review, 85: 165-187.

Fehr H and Ujhelyiova (2012). Fertility, female labor supply, and family policy. German Economic Review, 14(2): 138-165.

Francesconi M (2002). A joint dynamic model of fertility and work of married women. Journal of Labor Economics, 20(2): 336-380.

Hailemariam A, Alayu S and Teller C (2011). The National Population Policy (NPP) of Ethiopia: Achievements, challenges and lessons learned, 1993-2010. In: Teller C and Hailemariam A (eds.). The Demographic Transition and Development in Africa: The Unique Case of Ethiopia. London, New York: Springer.

Hotz VJ and Miller RA (1988). An empirical analysis of life cycle fertility and female labor supply. Econometrica, 56(1): 19-118.

Hulme D (2007). Integrating Quantitative and Qualitative Research for Country Case Studies of Development. GPRG-WPS No. 063. Global Poverty Research Group.

IMF (2006). The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia: Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper - 2003/04 Annual Progress Report. Country report No. 06/27. Washington D. C.

Kanbur R and Shaffer P (2006). Epistemology, normative theory and poverty analysis: Implications for Q-squared in practice. World Development, 35(2): 183-196.

Kelley A and Schmidt R (2001). Economic and demographic change: A synthesis of models, findings and perspectives. In: Birdsall, Kelley and Sinding (eds.). Population Matters. New York: Oxford University Press.

Kim J and Aassve A (2006). Fertility and its Consequence on Family Labor Supply. IZA Discussion paper series 2162. Vienna Institute of Demography & IZA Bonn & University of Essex.

Kim J, Engelhardt H, Prskawetz A, et al. (2009). Does fertility decrease household consumption? An analysis of poverty dynamics and fertility in Indonesia. Demographic Research, 20(26): 623-656.

Lawson D, Hulme D and Muwonge J (2007). Methodological Issues Associated with Combining Quantitative and Qualitative Approaches to Understanding Poverty Dynamics: Evidence from Uganda. GPRG-WPS No. 077. Global Poverty Research Group.

McNicoll J (1984). Consequences of rapid population growth: An overview and assessment. Population and Development Review, 10(2): 177-233.

Ministry of Finance and Economic Development (2002). Ethiopia: Sustainable Development and Poverty Reduction Program. Addis Ababa.

Ministry of Finance and Economic Development (2006). Ethiopia: Building on Progress: A Plan for Accelerated and Sustained Development to End Poverty (2005/06-2009/10). Volume I. Addis Ababa. ETH%202005%20Plan%20for%20Accelerated%20and%20Sustained%20Development%20to%20End%20Poverty%20%28PASDEP%29.pdf.

Ministry of Finance and Economic Development (2010). Growth and Transformation Plan (2010/11 - 2014/15). Volume I. Addis Ababa.

Moffitt R (1984). Profiles of fertility, labor supply and wages of married women: A complete life-cycle model. The Review of Economic Studies, 51(2): 263-278.

Orbeta A (2005). Children and the labor force participation and earnings of parents in the Philippines. Philippine Journal of Development, 32(1): 19-52.

Ringheim K, Teller C and Sines E (2009). Ethiopia at A Crossroads: Demography, Gender, and Development. Population Reference Bureau Policy brief. Washington D. C.

Rosenzweig MR and Wolpin KI (1980a). Testing the quantity-quality fertility model: The use of twins as a natural experiment. Econometrica, 48(1): 227-240.

Rosenzweig MR and Wolpin KI (1980b). Lifecycle labor supply and fertility: Causal inferences from household models. Journal of Political Economy, 88(2): 328-348.

Samman E, Presler-Marshall E and Jones N (2016). Women’s work: Mothers, children and the global childcare crisis. ODI Report. London: Overseas Development Institute.

Schultz TP (2007). Fertility in Developing Countries. Discussion Paper 953. Economic Growth Center, Yale University.

Shaffer P (2012). Ten Years Of ‘Q-Squared’: Are Two Disciplines Better than One? Q-Squared Working Paper No. 57. Trent University.

Sheran M (2007). The career and family choices of women: A dynamic analysis of labor force participation, schooling, marriage, and fertility decisions. Review of Economic Dynamics, 10: 367-399.

Solomon B and Kimmel J (2009). Testing the Inverseness of Fertility and Labor Supply: The Case of Ethiopia. IZA Discussion paper No. 3949. Western Michigan University and IZA.

Transitional Government of Ethiopia (1993). The National Population Policy of Ethiopia. Office of the Prime Minister, Addis Ababa.

UN Population Division (2005). Population Challenges and Development Goals. Report No. ST/ESA/SER.A/248. Department of Economic and Social Affairs, New York.

UN Population Division (2017). World Population Prospects: Key Findings and Advance Tables (The 2017 Revision). Report No. ESA/P/WP/248. Department of Economic and Social Affairs, New York.

UNFPA (2010). State of the World Population: Monitoring ICPD Goals.

Wooldridge JM (2009). Introductory Econometrics: A Modern Approach. Fourth Edition. Mason OH USA: South-Western SENGAGE Learning.

(3 Abstract Views, 12 PDF Downloads)


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2018 Chalachew Getahun Desta

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.