Date of Award

Spring 4-1-2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Meghir, Costas


The first chapter studies the life-cycle behavior of two cohorts of American women: those born in the 1960s and those born in the 1980s. Millennial women are more likely to work full time, work in professional, health, and education-related occupations, and be childless in their mid-thirties than women born in the 1960s. I build a life-cycle model that incorporates labor supply, occupation, and fertility choices, and estimate the model for the older cohort. I analyze the role of two forces in explaining the data patterns: (i) labor market factors, including changes in the wage structure and in the initial joint distribution of workers' skills and occupations' skills requirements, and (ii) family factors, including changes in marital status across cohorts. I find that both mechanisms are important and together are able to (i) explain the changes in occupational sorting across cohorts; (ii) predict 74% of the changes in the share of women in full-time work; (iii) explain 85% of the decrease in the share of women with two children and (iv) explain 81% of the increase in the share of childless women in their mid-thirties. The second chapter, which is work performed jointly with Lucas Finamor and Boryana Ilieva, studies women and men’s labor market and insurance decisions around childbirth in Chile, a country with widespread informality. We identify three sectors of employment: formal, informal and self-employment. An individual in the informal sector works in a private firm without a labor contract and a self-employed person is an independent worker. We document the following findings. First, there are no significant changes in the share of workers with no labor contract after childbirth for both men and women, but women are more likely to switch into self-employment where the effect is larger for those highly educated. Second, we show that highly educated women are more likely to work remotely after the first birth. In contrast, low educated women do not change work location. Third, women are also more likely to switch to less cognitive intensive occupations after childbirth, which may explain the fall in wages after the event. Fourth, women are less likely to keep private health insurance after their first birth. Finally, we explore the effects of the 2008 Chilean pension system reform on formal work decisions. We observe that women who had children after 2008 are less likely to leave formal employment, in comparison to women who had children before the reform was implemented. In the third chapter, which is joint work with Paula Calvo and Zhengren Zhu, we investigate the role of maternal mental health on children's cognitive and mental health development. We propose a model that incorporates maternal mental health as a separate input in the human capital production function, different from cognitive and non-cognitive skills. We employ the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979, where we link mothers and their children, to document the empirical patterns that motivate this study: First, poor maternal mental health is positively associated with poor mental health of her child and negatively associated with her child's cognitive development (which includes math and reading recognition). Second, poor maternal mental health is associated with worse parental practices at different ages. Third, children's mental health problems affect their cognitive outcomes in school. Fourth, children with poor mental health are more likely to have mental health problems in adult life, have lower wages and lower educational attainment. Our model incorporates these key mechanisms. We describe the estimation steps and propose counterfactual exercises.