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Number and Spacing of Children and Women’s Employment in Africa

  • 2013
  • Working Paper
Longwe, Abiba, Smits, Jeroen & de Jong, Eelke

Publication Title: Nijmegen Center for Economics (NiCE) Working Paper 13-103

Abstract: We analyze the effects of the number of recent births and the spacing between the last two children on women’s labor force participation in non-agricultural employment in Africa. Our data comprise over 200,000 married women with at least one child below 6 from 242 districts in 26 African countries. In order to account for endogeneity of the fertility and employment decisions, we instrument the number and spacing of recent births by unmet need for family planning. Both the number of recent births and short birth spacing have substantial negative effects on women’s employment. An interaction analysis indicates that more highly educated women and urban women suffer most from these negative effects. Our findings indicate that investments in family planning are likely to enhance the opportunities for women to work for pay. In addition, policies should help the higher educated, urban women to relieve their task of rearing young children.


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