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Essays in Female Labor Supply and Marriage in Developing Countries


This dissertation presents three chapters on female labor supply and marital stability in developing countries. The first two chapters focus on female labor supply in India. In the first chapter, I study the relationship between husband's earning and female labor supply of married women in India. Despite economic growth, fertility reductions, and improvement in education, female labor force participation in India declined from 35% to 27% between 1999 and 2012. This chapter examines the degree to which the decline can be attributed to an increase in the earnings of married males. Using two datasets and three sources of variation in married male earnings, I find a robust and negative elasticity of married female labor supply with respect to married male earnings. Subgroup and robustness analyses indicate the presence of a household-level income effect. Back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that this relationship can account for over 40% of the above decline in married female labor supply. Continuing with this investigation in the second chapter, I study the role of other spatial and individual characteristics behind the changes in female labor supply in India during the same period. Based on the decomposition analysis of changes in labor supply for paid versus unpaid work in rural areas, I find that geographical characteristics, such as the capital intensity of agriculture, are important drivers of changes in married female labor force participation in paid jobs but not in unpaid jobs. Individual-level variables, such as age, education, caste, and religion, are significant determinants of both paid and unpaid labor jobs of married women in rural India. In the third chapter, we study the effect of fertility challenges faced by couples on divorce in developing countries. Using the Demographic and Health Surveys from 66 countries over 23 years, we find that, infertility, the first-born child being a daughter, and death of the first-born child significantly increase the likelihood of divorce in a marriage. These findings lend support for the implications of theoretical analysis by Becker (1977), which says that unanticipated shocks increase marital instability by generating greater differences between the expected and actual utility from a union.

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