‘To help keep the home going’: female labour supply in interwar London

Jessica S. Bean
Published Online:
23 Jul 2014
Volume/Issue No:
Volume 68 Issue 2

Additional Options

Most prior work on historical female labour supply has been confined to looking at the female labour force participation decision. This article uses the detailed information on weekly hours of work and wages contained in the New Survey of London Life and Labour (NSLLL) (1928–32) to provide the first estimation of both the participation and the hours‐of‐work decisions for female workers prior to the Second World War. The main finding is that the labour supply curve was negatively sloped—women worked longer hours at lower wages. It is also possible to compare the determinants of the labour force participation decision and the hours of work decision among females in the NSLLL. It appears that the labour force participation decision was more strongly related to household income level than to own wages, while the hours of work decision among working women was more strongly related to the wage level than to household income. Finally, the article also examines the differential labour market behaviour of married women, female household heads, and young single women; most striking among these results is the evident added‐worker effect on married women of the onset of the Great Depression in 1930.

© Economic History Society 2014

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