Employment-Nonemployment Transitions over the Life Course among Young Women of NLSY 1979-1992: A Longitudinal Analysis

Phang, Hanam
Working paper no. 1995-09


Using detailed work history data from the female youth cohort of NLSY 1979-1991, this study analyzes the process of transition between employment and nonemployment over the life course to identify individual and structural determinants of the process. Work-related individual characteristics (e.g., education, ability, preferences) are all positively related to the durations of employment, while negatively related to the durations of nonemployment. Market wage also strongly affects the rate of exit from employment (negatively) and the rate of entry to employment (positively), but husband’s income is not a significant determinant. These results corroborate recent findings that women, even during the early stage of career, are quite responsive to the economic opportunity of the labor market.

As women age while moving in and out of the labor market, considerably different work histories emerge among individuals. This study finds that individuals’ past work history and work experience independently affect their employment transitions: the more experienced the woman and the more stable her past work history, the less likely to exit employment. Our event history analysis also shows that young women’s employment-nonemployment transitions are time-structured: the rate of exit from employment is negatively dependent on the duration of current employment, while the rate of entry into employment is negatively dependent on the duration of current nonemployment spell. This study also documents the importance of structural variables; the occupation, the sector of the labor market, and union status are all significant determining factors for individuals’ rates of entry into and exit from employment.