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Childbearing Postponement, its Option Value, and the Biological Clock

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  • David de la Croix

    () (UNIVERSITE CATHOLIQUE DE LOUVAIN, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES))

  • Aude Pommeret

    () (SEE, City University of Hong Kong and IREGE Université Savoie Mont Blanc)

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

  • David de la Croix & Aude Pommeret, 2017. "Childbearing Postponement, its Option Value, and the Biological Clock," Discussion Papers (IRES - Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales) 2017016, Université catholique de Louvain, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES).
  • Handle: RePEc:ctl:louvir:2017016
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Jérôme Adda & Christian Dustmann & Katrien Stevens, 2017. "The Career Costs of Children," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 125(2), pages 293-337.
    2. Boucekkine, R. & Pommeret, A. & Prieur, F., 2013. "Optimal regime switching and threshold effects," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 37(12), pages 2979-2997.
    3. David de la Croix & Omar Licandro, 2013. "The Child is Father Of the Man: Implications for the Demographic Transition," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 123(567), pages 236-261, March.
    4. Thomas Baudin & David de la Croix & Paula E. Gobbi, 2015. "Fertility and Childlessness in the United States," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(6), pages 1852-1882, June.
    5. Thomas Baudin & David de la Croix & Paula E. Gobbi, 2015. "Fertility and Childlessness in the United States," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(6), pages 1852-1882, June.
    6. Avinash K. Dixit & Robert S. Pindyck, 1994. "Investment under Uncertainty," Economics Books, Princeton University Press, edition 1, number 5474, October.
    7. David de la Croix & Matthias Doepke, 2003. "Inequality and Growth: Why Differential Fertility Matters," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(4), pages 1091-1113, September.
    8. Gayle, George-Levi & Golan, Limor & Soytas, Mehmet A., 2015. "What is the source of the intergenerational correlation in earnings?," Working Papers 2015-19, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
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    10. Michelle Sheran Sylvester, 2007. "The Career and Family Choices of Women: A Dynamic Analysis of Labor Force Participation, Schooling, Marriage and Fertility Decisions," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 10(3), pages 367-399, July.
    11. Hippolyte D'Albis & Angela Luci Greulich & Grégory Ponthière, 2015. "Avoir un enfant plus tard: Enjeux sociodémographiques du report des naissances," Université Paris1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (Post-Print and Working Papers) halshs-01245523, HAL.
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    Cited by:

    1. Bhalotra, Sonia R. & Venkataramani, Atheendar & Walther, Selma, 2018. "Fertility and Labor Market Responses to Reductions in Mortality," IZA Discussion Papers 11716, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    2. Hippolyte D'Albis & Angela Greulich & Grégory Ponthière, 2017. "Development, fertility and childbearing age: A unified growth theory," PSE Working Papers halshs-01452846, HAL.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Childlessness; Late parenthood; Real option; Career uncertainty; Assisted reproduction technology;

    JEL classification:

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

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