Motherhood and Female Self-Employment: Theory and Evidence

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Accueil » Motherhood and Female Self-Employment: Theory and Evidence
11 Mai 2020
Types de publication: 
Cahier de recherche
Sylvain Dessy
Axe de recherche: 
Enjeux économiques et financiers
Marital status
Selection bias
Classification JEL: 

Having young children can push women into self-employment to reconcile the demands of motherhood with their professional ambitions. However, if self-employment offers very few opportunities for decent pay and access to wage employment depends on education, then, motherhood may no longer matter to women’s self-employment. In this paper, we formalize this idea theoretically and test it empirically using data from Nigeria. We use an identification strategy that corrects selection bias and the endogeneity of fertility jointly. We find no evidence of a causal effect of motherhood on women’s self-employment. This result is robust to several alternative specifications. However, we also find that motherhood increases the probability of self-employment for single women but not for married women. These findings suggest that the social setting governs the importance of motherhood for women’s self-employment.


Jean-Louis Bago : Department of Economics, Université Laval. CRREP. 
Sylvain Dessy : Department of Economics, Université Laval. CRREP.

We are very grateful to Bruce Shearer, Bernard Fortin, Sonia Laszlo, and Luca Tiberti for helpful comments at various stages of this paper. We thank participants at the January 11th, 2019 CRREP/CDR conference held in Quebec City, Canada, and the 2019 meeting of the Canadian Economics Association held in Banff, Alberta, Canada. 
Jean-Louis acknowledges financial support from the Centre de recherche sur les risques, les enjeux économiques, et les politiques publiques for the conduct of this project.