How Young Children's Disabilities Affect Parents' Labor Force Participation and Earnings

Open Access
Lemmon, Megan Elaine
Graduate Program:
Master of Arts
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
August 06, 2015
Committee Members:
  • Molly Ann Martin, Thesis Advisor/Co-Advisor
  • disability
  • labor force participation
  • children
  • family
Children’s disabilities are negatively associated with mothers’ labor force participation. Yet most studies on this topic rely on cross-sectional data and it remains unclear whether selection factors account for this relationship. The current study uses longitudinal birth cohort data to examine whether young children’s disabilities impact labor force participation and earnings for mothers and fathers in two-parent families. I use propensity score matching to better account for background characteristics that increase families’ risk for having a disabled child. Additionally, I use multiple disability measures based on the child’s type of disabling condition. I find that children’s physical disabilities reduce employed mothers’ weekly work hours, but are not significantly related to their employment status or weekly earnings. Children’s neurodevelopmental conditions do not reduce maternal employment, but when compounded with physical conditions they reduce the likelihood that mothers are currently in the labor force. In contrast, children’s neurodevelopmental disabilities increase fathers’ attachment to the labor market. Overall, these findings suggest that children’s disabilities impact parents’ labor force participation after controlling for observed selection factors, but these effects vary depending on the type of disability.