Short-term variation in urban breadwinner incomes as a determinant for the earnings of their spouse and children: Sweden 1913-14

Lilla Sparbanksfoajén Session 7: Life cycles incomes and relief during stages of economic hardship organized by Anton Svensson and Louise Cormack


Malin Nilsson, Stefan Öberg


Historical research has in recent years increased the efforts to quantify and clarify the female labor force participation. The task is made difficult by the fact that female labor force participation was often not reported in official sources. While there is no longer any doubt that most women worked and contributed to both the household and overall economy less is known about the dynamics of their labor force participation. Studies of this is also hampered by the lack of sources but it has been shown that women responded to market signals through wages both in the 19th (Horrell and Humphries 1995) and in the early 20th century (Hatton and Bailey 1993; Bean 2014). The women also responded to the incomes of their husbands by working less when the men earned more. To the extent that the women’s labor market participation was determined by the incomes of their men the women’s incomes can be said to have worked to shelter the households from income variations. Humphries (2010) instead suggests that it was the children’s work that sheltered the households from income variations. We investigate these issues using longitudinal household budget survey data collected in Sweden in the early 20th century (1913–1914). We can also follow all household incomes week by week over a full year. The research question is whether or not there was an effect on the labor force participation of women and children from short-term variations in male income.


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