Ruhr Economic Papers

Ruhr Economic Papers #735

The Intergenerational Transmission of Gender Role Attitudes: Evidence from Immigrant Mothers-in-Law

by Julia Bredtmann, Lisa Sofie Höckel and Sebastian Otten

RUB, RWI, 12/2017, 30 S./p., 8 Euro, ISBN 978-3-86788-855-4 DOI: 10.4419/86788855



The recent literature on intergenerational mobility has shown that attitudes and preferences are an important pathway for the intergenerational transmission of economic outcomes. We contribute to this literature by documenting that intergenerationally transmitted gender role attitudes also explain economic outcomes of individuals other than immediate relatives. Focusing on daughters-in-law, we examine whether the gender role attitudes of foreign-born mothers-in-law affect the fertility and labor supply decisions of native US women. Our results reveal that women’s labor market participation is significantly positively related to the gender role attitudes in her mother-in-law’s country of origin. Employing a new identification strategy, we show that this finding is due to the intergenerational transmission of gender roles rather than other unobservable characteristics of the mother-in-law’s country of origin. These results suggest that the cultural values held in their source country do not only influence the behavior of immigrants and their descendants, but can also affect the labor force participation of native women. We do, however, not find any evidence that intergenerationally transmitted gender role attitudes affect the fertility behavior of native women.

JEL-Classification: J13, J15, J22, D1

Keywords: Intergenerational transmission; gender role attitudes; culture; immigration; fertility; female labor force participation