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The Timing of Childbearing among Heterogeneous Women in Dynamic General Equilibrium


  • Charles H. Mullin
  • Ping Wang


We develop a tractable framework with a fully specified dynamic process of demographic and labor decisions over an individual female's life span to determine the timing of childbearing. Fertility affects women's behavior through three channels: its tradeoff with leisure, its interactions with human capital investment, and its cost in terms of lost market productivity. Instead of numerically solving a discrete-time version of the model, we propose an alternative solution technique that provides analytic, closed-form solutions for the continuous-time dynamic optimization problem with (discrete) time-line variables. The analytic results indicate that (i) increased impatience has an ambiguous effect on childbearing timing; (ii) the age at first birth rises at an increasing rate with the productivity loss from children; and (iii) women of greater ability have births at later ages and are more sensitive to parameter changes. Calibration exercises suggest that focusing on the median female's response to changes in the preference, cost, and technology parameters fails to capture their important distributional effects.

Suggested Citation

  • Charles H. Mullin & Ping Wang, 2002. "The Timing of Childbearing among Heterogeneous Women in Dynamic General Equilibrium," NBER Working Papers 9231, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9231
    Note: HE

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. 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.
    2. Yao, Yao, 2016. "Fertility and HIV risk in Africa," Working Paper Series 5342, Victoria University of Wellington, School of Economics and Finance.
    3. Lucie Schmidt, 2008. "Risk preferences and the timing of marriage and childbearing," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 45(2), pages 439-460, May.
    4. Fort, Margherita, 2005. "Education and timing of births: evidence from a natural experiment in Italy," ISER Working Paper Series 2005-20, Institute for Social and Economic Research.
    5. Catalina Amuedo-Dorantes & Jean Kimmel, 2005. "“The Motherhood Wage Gap for Women in the United States: The Importance of College and Fertility Delay”," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 3(1), pages 17-48, September.
    6. Jane Herr, 2016. "Measuring the effect of the timing of first birth on wages," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 29(1), pages 39-72, January.
    7. Akira Momota & Ryo Horii, 2013. "Timing of childbirth, capital accumulation, and economic welfare," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 65(2), pages 494-522, April.
    8. Jeanne Lafortune & Murat Iyigun, 2016. "Why Wait? A Century of Education, Marriage Timing and Gender Roles," Documentos de Trabajo 468, Instituto de Economia. Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile..

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity


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