Demography, family, and gender

Population characteristics strongly predict labor market success. One of the biggest economic changes has been the rise of women in the labor market. The upcoming demographic imbalances suggest substantial adjustment processes on labor markets around the globe. The articles in this subject area provide evidence relating the role of demography in social, cultural, and biological processes to their effects on worker well-being.

  • Human capital effects of marriage payments

    Investing in female human capital can reduce brideprice and dowry practices and increase welfare

    Siwan Anderson, September 2014
    Payments at the time of marriage, which are ubiquitous in developing countries, can be substantial enough to impoverish parents. Brideprice and dowry have both been linked to domestic violence against women, and inflation in these payments has prompted legislation against them in several jurisdictions. Marriage payments are often a substitute for investment in female human capital, so from a welfare and policy perspective, they should be prohibited. This highlights the importance of promoting direct economic returns over legal and customary rights.
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  • Consequences of the obesity epidemic for immigrants

    When migrants move to countries with high obesity rates, does assimilation lead to labor market penalties and higher health care costs?

    Laura Argys, December 2015
    Upon arrival in a host country, immigrants often have lower obesity rates (as measured for instance by BMI—body mass index) than their native counterparts do, but these rates converge over time. In light of the worldwide obesity epidemic and the flow of immigrants into host countries with higher obesity rates, it is important to understand the consequences of such assimilation. Policymakers could benefit from a discussion of the impact of immigrant obesity on labor market outcomes and the use of public services. In particular, policies could find ways to improve immigrants’ access to health care for both the prevention and treatment of obesity.
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  • Obesity and labor market outcomes

    The hidden private cost of obesity: Lower earnings and a lower probability of employment

    Susan L. Averett, May 2014
    Rising obesity is not only a pressing global public health problem. There is also substantial evidence that obese people, particularly women, are less likely to be employed and, when employed, are likely to earn lower wages. There is some evidence that the lower earnings are a result of discriminatory hiring and sorting into jobs with less customer contact. Understanding whether obesity is associated with adverse labor market outcomes and ascertaining the source of these outcomes are essential for designing effective public policy.
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  • Gender diversity in teams

    Greater representation of women on decision-making teams may better represent women’s preferences but may not help economic performance

    Ghazala Azmat, May 2014
    Women’s representation on corporate boards, political committees, and other teams is increasing, in part because of legal mandates. Understanding the effects of gender diversity in terms of economic performance is important to assess the impact of these changes. Data on team dynamics and gender differences in preferences (risk-taking behavior, taste for competition, prosocial behavior) show how gender composition influences group decision-making and subsequent performance through channels such as investment decisions, internal management, corporate governance, and social responsibility.
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  • Does hot weather affect human fertility?

    Hot weather can worsen reproductive health and decrease later birth rates

    Alan Barreca, July 2017
    Research finds that hot weather causes a fall in birth rates nine months later. Evidence suggests that this decline in births is due to hot weather harming reproductive health around the time of conception. Birth rates only partially rebound after the initial decline. Moreover, the rebound shifts births toward summer months, harming infant health by increasing third trimester exposure to hot weather. Worse infant health raises health care costs in the short term as well as reducing labor productivity in the longer term, possibly due to lasting physiological harm from the early life injury.
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  • Does return migration influence fertility at home?

    Migrants encounter different fertility norms while abroad, which they can bring back upon returning home

    Simone Bertoli, November 2015
    Demographic factors in migrant-sending countries can influence international migration flows. But when migrants move across borders, they can also influence the pace of demographic transition in their countries of origin. This is because migrants, who predominantly move on a temporary basis, encounter new fertility norms in their host countries and then bring them back home. These new fertility norms can be higher or lower than those in their country of origin. So the new fertility norms that result from migration flows can either accelerate or slow down a demographic transition in migrant-sending countries.
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  • Poverty persistence and poverty dynamics

    Snapshots of who is poor in one period provide an incomplete picture of poverty

    Martin Biewen, November 2014
    A considerable part of the poverty that is measured in a single period is transitory rather than persistent. In most countries, only a portion of people who are currently poor are persistently poor. People who are persistently poor or who cycle into and out of poverty should be the main focus of anti-poverty policies. Understanding the characteristics of the persistently poor, and the circumstances and mechanisms associated with entry into and exit from poverty, can help to inform governments about options to reduce persistent poverty. Differences in poverty persistence across countries can shed additional light on possible sources of poverty persistence.
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  • Intergenerational income persistence

    Measures of intergenerational persistence can be indicative of equality of opportunity, but the relationship is not clear cut

    Jo Blanden, August 2015
    A strong association between incomes across generations—with children from poor families likely to be poor as adults—is frequently considered an indicator of insufficient equality of opportunity. Studies of such “intergenerational persistence,” or lack of intergenerational mobility, are concerned with measuring the strength of the relationship between parents’ socio-economic status and that of their children as adults. However, reliable measurement requires overcoming important data and methodological difficulties. Moreover, the association between equality of opportunity and common measures of intergenerational persistence is not as clear-cut as is often assumed.
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  • The effects of wage subsidies for older workers

    Wage subsidies to encourage employers to hire older workers are often ineffective

    Bernhard Boockmann, September 2015
    Population aging in many developed countries has motivated some governments to provide wage subsidies to employers for hiring or retaining older workers. The subsidies are intended to compensate for the gap between the pay and productivity of older workers, which may discourage their hiring. A number of empirical studies have investigated how wage subsidies influence employers’ hiring and employment decisions and whether the subsidies are likely to be efficient. To which groups subsidies should be targeted and how the wage subsidy programs interact with incentives for early retirement are open questions.
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  • Can government policies reverse undesirable declines in fertility?

    Government policies can have a modest effect on raising fertility—but broader social changes lowering fertility are stronger

    Elizabeth Brainerd, May 2014
    Since 1989 fertility and family formation have declined sharply in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Fertility rates are converging on—and sometimes falling below—rates in Western Europe, most of which are below replacement levels. Concerned about a shrinking and aging population and strains on pension systems, governments are using incentives to encourage people to have more children. These policies seem only modestly effective in countering the impacts of widespread social changes, including new work opportunities for women and stronger incentives to invest in education.
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