Impact of birth timing on women’s careers: changes over generations?

Benoît Rapoport, Université Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne
Carole Bonnet, Institut National d'Études Démographiques (INED)
Ariane Pailhé, Institut National d'Études Démographiques (INED)
Anne Solaz, Institut National d'Études Démographiques (INED)

It is now well-known that having children induces wage penalties for women. An emerging question is how the timing of motherhood and not only the number of children affects future labor market outcomes and whether it influences the magnitude of the penalties. Some studies find that postponement of births induces a significant increase in women’s wages. Postponement of the first birth is indeed one of the main changes in the last decades, due to extended education and increasing difficulties to enter the labor market; a better fertility control; changing norms about parenthood; as well as the research of the “right time” in the career, in order to minimize the penalty. Securing a stable and well-paid job before having children might be an optimal strategy. Birth postponement has occurred in France as in other OECD countries, but fertility level is generally higher. Previous studies conclude that contrary to other European countries, there is no direct negative impact of children per se on mother’s wages. However, having children has a negative indirect impact through career interruptions and statistical discrimination against mothers. The impact of birth timing is however yet unknown. We use French data (EIC2005) from the pension contribution records matched with administrative data on wages and unemployment. Those representative data include precise elements on careers and wages between 1968 and 2005 for several cohorts and are also matched with data on births and marriages. We use panel data models to assess the effect of the timing of births on wages. In particular we take into account the possible endogeneity of the motherhood decision. Moreover we extend the investigation to men, unlike the major part of the literature on fertility. We also adopt a generational perspective, trying to examine whether the effect of postponing is the same over generations.

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Presented in Session 101: Childlessness, fertility and employment