Breast cancer and women's labor supply

Health Serv Res. 2002 Oct;37(5):1309-28. doi: 10.1111/1475-6773.01041.


Objective: To investigate the effect of breast cancer on women's labor supply. DATE SOURCE/STUDY SETTING: Using the 1992 Health and Retirement Study, we estimate the probability of working using probit regression and then, for women who are employed, we estimate regressions for average weekly hours worked using ordinary least squares (OLS). We control for health status by using responses to perceived health status and comorbidities. For a sample of married women, we control for spouses' employer-based health insurance. We also perform additional analyses to detect selection bias in our sample.

Principal findings: We find that the probability of breast cancer survivors working is 10 percentage points less than that for women without breast cancer. Among women who work, breast cancer survivors work approximately three more hours per week than women who do not have cancer. Results of similar magnitude persist after health status is controlled in the analysis, and although we could not definitively rule out selection bias, we could not find evidence that our results are attributable to selection bias.

Conclusions: For some women, breast cancer may impose an economic hardship because it causes them to leave theirjobs. However, for women who survive and remain working, this study failed to show a negative effect on hours worked associated with breast cancer. Perhaps the morbidity associated with certain types and stages of breast cancer and its treatment does not interfere with work.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / economics*
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology
  • Comorbidity
  • Cost of Illness
  • Decision Making
  • Employment / statistics & numerical data*
  • Family Characteristics
  • Female
  • Health Benefit Plans, Employee
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Marital Status
  • Middle Aged
  • Probability
  • Selection Bias
  • Survivors / psychology
  • Survivors / statistics & numerical data
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Women, Working / psychology
  • Women, Working / statistics & numerical data