The NYT Economix blog features data which suggests that accommodating women in their pursuit to combine family and career could mean that more educated women will have more babies. Although 2007 U.S. data shows that among women age 40 to 44, 20 percent have never had a child, double the percentage 30 years ago with the percentage rising to 27 percent for those with graduate or professional degrees, prospects for more babies born by educated women are rising, likely due to increased availability of workplace flexibility:
….as of 2008 greater education was generally associated with lower rates of motherhood – except for women with the most advanced degrees. That is, women with professional degrees and Ph.D.’s are slightly more likely to have had children than their counterparts with just master’s or bachelor’s degrees.
And compared to their equally educated counterparts from the early 1990s, today’s advanced-degree women are actually much more likely to have borne children by age 44. More than a third of these women with professional/Ph.D. degrees in 1992-94 decided to forgo having children; in 2006-8, less than a quarter of such women made the same choice.
Perhaps this means that the employers of the most educated women have indeed been persuaded to provide more flexible work arrangements, as Claudia Goldin has found for at least some careers.
Claudia Golding wrote an article, trying to explain why so many more women become veterinarians. She thinks it’s the ability to combine the prestige of being a doctor with the more reasonable work schedule veterinarians have, compared to other doctors. This allows women doctors to combine family and career better, the trade-off being that the earnings are lower:
… the decision is largely governed by a desire for career and family and involves a trade-off between earnings and aspects of the job such as work flexibility over the year, week and day.
Being a veterinarian has prestige, equivalent to that of a physician. Like some physicians there is considerable room for part-time and flexible work. The training period is less than that for doctors. Veterinarians work lower hours than MBAs and engage in more part-time work sooner in their professional lives.
As Goldin describes, many women will forgo higher earnings in order to be able to spend more time raising children. They do this by choosing more accommodating occupations and by working fewer hours. Those preferences play a big role in explaining the wage gap between men and women. The 77 cent to the dollar gap reflects the very reality that for many women there is more to life, than just work. And, rightly so.
Moreover, Steven Greenhouse at the NYT Economix blog brings our attention to a new study that shows that women who opt to work on their careers first by delaying childbirth may lead more stressful lives later on:
Delayed marriage and childbearing heighten the likelihood that the greatest childrearing demands come at the same time that job and career demands are great – particularly among the well-educated.
[.]Someone must focus on family caregiving-and that someone remains, more often than not, the mother.
[…] working mothers in particular give up leisure time and sleep (compared with mothers not in the labor force) to meet the demands of childrearing and jobs. The study founds [sic.] that, “Large percentages of mothers, no matter their labor force status, report they ‘are always rushed,’ are ‘multitasking most of the time,’ and that they have ‘too little time for themselves.’ “
Life is full of trade-offs. Fortunately as more employers recognize the value they can gain from giving their employees more flexible work options, combining family and career should become much easier for many men and women. If that means more American babies are born to educated women, that would be great news as well.