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Childbearing Postponement, its Option Value, and the Biological Clock

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  • de la Croix, David
  • Pommeret, Aude

Abstract

Having children is like investing in a risky project. Postponing birth is like delaying an irreversible investment. It has an option value, which depends on its costs and benefits, and in particular on the additional risks motherhood brings. We develop a parsimonious theory of childbearing postponement along these lines. We derive its implications for asset accumulation, income, optimal age at first birth, and childlessness. The structural parameters are estimated by matching the predictions of the model to data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth NLSY79. The uncertainty surrounding income growth is shown to increase with childbearing, and this increase is stronger for more educated people. This effect alone can explain why the age at first birth and the childlessness rate both increase with education. We use the model to simulate two hypothetical policies. Providing free medically assisted reproduction technology does not affect the age at first birth much, but lowers the childlessness rate. Insuring mothers against income risk is powerful in lowering the age at first birth.

Suggested Citation

  • de la Croix, David & Pommeret, Aude, 2018. "Childbearing Postponement, its Option Value, and the Biological Clock," CEPR Discussion Papers 12884, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:12884
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    1. d'Albis, Hippolyte & Greulich, Angela & Ponthiere, Gregory, 2018. "Development, fertility and childbearing age: A Unified Growth Theory," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 177(C), pages 461-494.
    2. d'Albis, Hippolyte & Greulich, Angela & Ponthiere, Gregory, 2018. "Development, fertility and childbearing age: A Unified Growth Theory," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 177(C), pages 461-494.
    3. Giray Gozgor & Mehmet Huseyin Bilgin & Peter Rangazas, 2021. "Economic Uncertainty and Fertility," Journal of Human Capital, University of Chicago Press, vol. 15(3), pages 373-399.
    4. Fabio Blasutto, 2020. "Cohabitation vs Marriage: Mating Strategies by Education in the USA," LIDAM Discussion Papers IRES 2020023, Université catholique de Louvain, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES).
    5. d'Albis, Hippolyte & Greulich, Angela & Ponthiere, Gregory, 2018. "Development, fertility and childbearing age: A Unified Growth Theory," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 177(C), pages 461-494.
    6. Bhalotra, Sonia & Venkataramani, Atheendar & Walther, Selma, 2018. "Fertility and labor market responses to reductions in mortality," ISER Working Paper Series 2018-15, Institute for Social and Economic Research.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Assisted reproduction technology; Career uncertainty; Late parenthood; Real option;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth

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