The Expanding Education Gap in Women’s Earnings: The Role of Fertility Timing

Catherine Doren , University of Wisconsin-Madison

In recent decades, gaps in earnings and fertility timing between women with and without a college degree have simultaneously grown. College-educated women, compared to less educated women, have been substantially delaying fertility, which is associated with lower motherhood pay penalties, suggesting that this trend may contribute to the growing disparity in women’s earnings by education. This paper explores the relationship between rising inequality in women’s earnings and shifting patterns of childbearing across education levels. I use data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation Synthetic Beta Data to estimate effects of motherhood on earnings by education and how these effects vary by first birth timing. I also consider how these effects have changed over time. I conclude by posing a counterfactual, asking to what degree the education earnings gap would differ today if all women still had the same first-birth timing as did same-education women in the 1960s

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 Presented in Session 87. The Changing Correlates of Fertility Timing in Developed Countries