Fertility timing and "opting out”: a cohort comparison of women with advanced and college degrees for birth cohorts 1931-1975

Natalie Nitsche, Yale University
Hannah Brueckner, Yale University

This paper adds new evidence to the ‘opt out’ debate regarding white married mothers with high levels of education in the United States. We use the Current Population Survey (CPS) June files on fertility (1979—2006) to address differences in age and cohort (1930-1975) trends in labor force participation and full-time employment rates between women with college and women with advanced degrees. Furthermore, we estimate a series of logistic regressions to assess the effect of age at first birth on subsequent labor force participation rates. We do not find evidence for increased levels of retreat from the labor market; however, the labor force participation rate clearly stalled for both educational groups, and full-time rates declined. Also, the child penalty in labor force participation is 10% higher for college educated women compared to women with advanced degrees. Moreover, throughout the cohorts, women who had their first birth between 26 and 33 are subsequently significantly less likely to be employed than women who had their first child either earlier or later in the life course.

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Presented in Poster Session 1