Volume 45 - Article 30 | Pages 917–956

How do mothers work? Kin coresidence and mothers' work in Latin America

By Carolina Aragao, Aida Villanueva

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Date received:13 Oct 2020
Date published:06 Oct 2021
Word count:7447
Keywords:family, household structure, Latin America, maternal employment, work


Background: While the employment of mothers has received considerable scholarly attention, the potential role of coresidence with kin for fostering mothers’ work remains underdeveloped.

Objective: We assess the relationship between kin coresidence, as well as the gender and employment status of kin on mothers’ employment, and hours of work. Further, we compare Brazil and Peru, two South American, upper-middle-income countries with divergent patterns of household structure.

Methods: Using nationally representative surveys from Brazil and Peru, we estimate linear probability models and Tobit regressions predicting mothers' employment and hours of work.

Results: We find a positive association between kin coresidence and mothers’ work outcomes. This association differs by the gender and employment status of kin. Our findings show the association between kin coresidence is stronger in Peru than in Brazil.

Conclusions: Scholarly work has shown that mothers shoulder most of the unpaid family work, imposing constraints on their opportunities in the labor markets. Coresident kin can help ease these diverging demands. Our results also suggest that the social norms that shape household arrangements may also influence support provided by coresident relatives.

Contribution: Our results highlight the importance of family structure to our understanding of mothers’ work outcomes. Surveys designed to track kin support from members outside the household remain geographically scarce and are often limited to specific time periods. A focus on family structure allows us to take advantage of large, nationally representative data to explore the specific connection between kin coresidence and mother’s economic outcomes for a wider set of contexts.

Author's Affiliation

Carolina Aragao - University of Texas at Austin, United States of America [Email]
Aida Villanueva - University of Massachusetts Amherst, United States of America [Email]

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