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Opting For Families: Recent Trends in the Fertility of Highly Educated Women


  • Qingyan Shang
  • Bruce A. Weinberg


Observers have argued about whether highly-educated women are opting out of their careers and for families. If so, it is natural to expect fertility to increase and, insofar as children are associated with lower employment, further declines in employment. This paper provides a comprehensive study of recent trends in the fertility of college-graduate women. We study fertility at a range of ages; consider both the intensive and extensive margins, explore a range of data sets; and study the period from 1940 to 2006. In contrast to most existing work, we find that college graduate women are indeed opting for families. Fertility increases at almost all ages along both the intensive and extensive margins since the late 1990s or 2000 and this recent increase in fertility is consistent across datasets.

Suggested Citation

  • Qingyan Shang & Bruce A. Weinberg, 2009. "Opting For Families: Recent Trends in the Fertility of Highly Educated Women," NBER Working Papers 15074, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15074
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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Patricia Cortés & José Tessada, 2011. "Low-Skilled Immigration and the Labor Supply of Highly Skilled Women," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 3(3), pages 88-123, July.
    2. Francine D. Blau & Lawrence M. Kahn, 2006. "The U.S. Gender Pay Gap in the 1990S: Slowing Convergence," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 60(1), pages 45-66, October.
    3. Francesca Mazzolari & Giuseppe Ragusa, 2013. "Spillovers from High-Skill Consumption to Low-Skill Labor Markets," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 95(1), pages 74-86, March.
    4. Claudia Goldin & Lawrence F. Katz, 2002. "The Power of the Pill: Oral Contraceptives and Women's Career and Marriage Decisions," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(4), pages 730-770, August.
    5. Autor, David & Dorn, David, 2009. "Inequality and Specialization: The Growth of Low-Skill Service Jobs in the United States," IZA Discussion Papers 4290, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    6. Marianne Bertrand & Claudia Goldin & Lawrence F. Katz, 2010. "Dynamics of the Gender Gap for Young Professionals in the Financial and Corporate Sectors," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(3), pages 228-255, July.
    7. Martha J. Bailey, 2006. "More Power to the Pill: The Impact of Contraceptive Freedom on Women's Life Cycle Labor Supply," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 121(1), pages 289-320.
    8. repec:pri:indrel:dsp01gb19f581g is not listed on IDEAS
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    Cited by:

    1. Martha J. Bailey & Brad Hershbein & Amalia R. Miller, 2012. "The Opt-In Revolution? Contraception and the Gender Gap in Wages," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 4(3), pages 225-254, July.
    2. Antecol, Heather, 2010. "The Opt-Out Revolution: A Descriptive Analysis," IZA Discussion Papers 5089, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. Jose Maria Cabrera, 2011. "Fecundidad e Ingresos en Uruguay," Documentos de Trabajo/Working Papers 1110, Facultad de Ciencias Empresariales y Economia. Universidad de Montevideo..
    4. repec:esr:resser:bkmnext202 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Moshe Hazan & Hosny Zoabi, 2015. "Do Highly Educated Women Choose Smaller Families?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 125(587), pages 1191-1226, September.
    6. Qingyan Shang & Bruce Weinberg, 2013. "Opting for families: recent trends in the fertility of highly educated women," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 26(1), pages 5-32, January.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply

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