The Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981 and the Tax Reform Act of 1986 changed the U.S. income tax structure in a dramatic fashion. In particular, these two reforms reduced the marginal tax rates for married households. In this paper I investigate what part of the rise in labor force participation of married women between 1980 to 1990 (a rise of 13 percentage points) can be accounted by the changes in taxes. I build an heterogeneous agent model populated by married households. Households differ by age and educational attainment levels of their members and decide whether the second earner, the wife, should participate in the labor market. I select parameter values so that the model economy is consistent with the 1980 U.S. economy in terms of income tax structure, wages (skill premium and gender gap), marital sorting (who is married with whom), and female labor force participation. Using counterfactual experiments I find that 20–24 percent of the rise in married female labor force participation is accounted for by the changes in the income tax structure. Changes in wages account for 62–64 percent, and changes in marital sorting account for 14–16 percent of the rise in the participation rate of married women.
- Female labor force participation
- Two-person households
- Tax reforms