Review of Economics of the Household

, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp 17–48 | Cite as

“The Motherhood Wage Gap for Women in the United States: The Importance of College and Fertility Delay”

  • Catalina Amuedo-DorantesEmail author
  • Jean Kimmel


One of the stylized facts from the past 30 years has been the declining rate of first births before age 30 for all women and the increase rate of first births after age 30 among women with four-year college degrees (Steven P. Martin, Demography, 37(4), 523–533, 2000). What are some of the factors behind women’s decision to postpone their childbearing? We hypothesize that the wage difference often observed between like-educated mothers and non-mothers (Jane Waldfogel, Journal of Labor Economics, 16, 505–545, 1998a; Journal of Economic Perspectives 12(1) 137–156, 1998b) may be affected by the postponement of childbearing until after careers are fully established. Hence, we focus on college-educated women because they are typically more career-oriented than their non-college educated counterparts and also the group most often observed postponing maternity. We use individual-level data on women from the 1979 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY79) in order to control for individual-level unobserved heterogeneity as well as human capital characteristics, such as actual work experience, in our empirical analysis. We estimate wage equations, first producing base-line results to compare to the existing literature. Then, we expand the basic wage equation model to address fundamental econometric issues and the education/fertility issue at hand. Our empirical findings are two-fold. First, we find that college-educated mothers do not experience a motherhood wage penalty at all. In fact, they enjoy a wage boost when compared to college-educated childless women. Second, fertility delay enhances this wage boost even further. Our results provide an explanation for the observed postponement of maternity for educated women. We argue that the wage boost experienced by college-educated mothers may be the result of their search for family–friendly work environments, which, in turn, yields job matches with more female-friendly firms offering greater opportunities for advancement.


family pay gap mother’s wages fertility delay motherhood wage gap wage penalty childbearing postponement college education 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Anderson, Deborah J., Melissa Binder, and Kate Krause. (2002a). “The Motherhood Wage Penalty Revisited: Experience, Heterogeneity, Work Effort and Work-Schedule Flexibility”, Industrial and Labor Relations Review.Google Scholar
  2. Anderson, Deborah J., Binder, Melissa, Krause, Kate 2002b“The Motherhood Wage Penalty: Which Mothers Pay It and Why?”American Economic Review papers & proceedings92354358Google Scholar
  3. Apps, Patricia F., Rees, Ray 2004“Fertility, Female Labor Supply and Public Policy”Scandinavian Journal of Economics106745764Google Scholar
  4. Becker, Gary S. 1985“Human Capital, Effort, and the Sexual Division of Labor”Journal of Labor Economics3(1 Pt. 2)S33S58Google Scholar
  5. Behrman, Jere, Suzanne Duryea, and Miguel Szekely. (1999). “Decomposing Fertility Differences Across World Regions and Over Time: Is Improved Health More Important than Woman’s Schooling?” IDB-OCE Working Paper No. 406 (September).Google Scholar
  6. Blackburn, McKinley L., David E. Bloom, and David Neumark. (1990). “Fertility Timing, Wages and Human Capital”. NBER Working Paper No. 3422, August.Google Scholar
  7. Bruni, Frank. (2002). “Persistent Drop in Fertility Reshapes Europe’s Future”, New York Times, December 26, 2002.Google Scholar
  8. Budig, Michelle J., England, Paula 2001“The Wage Penalty for Motherhood”American Sociological Review66204225Google Scholar
  9. Caucutt, Elizabeth M., Guner, Nezih, Knowles, John 2002“Why do Women Wait Matching Wage Inequality and the Incentives for Fertility Delay”Review of Economic Dynamics5815855Google Scholar
  10. Chandler, T.D., Kamo, Y., Werbel, J.D. 1994“Do Delays in Marriage and Childbirth Affect Earnings?”Social Science Quarterly74838853Google Scholar
  11. Chen, Renbao, Philip, S., Morgan,  1991“Recent Trends in the Timing of First Births in the United States”Demography28513533Google Scholar
  12. Chiodo, Abbigail J. and Michael T. Owyang. (2003). “Marriage, Motherhood and Money”. The Regional Economist 5–9.Google Scholar
  13. Crittendon, Ann 2001The Price of Motherhood: Why the Most Important Job in the World is Still the Least ValuedHenry Holt and CompanyNew YorkGoogle Scholar
  14. Drolet, Marie. (2002). “Wives, Mothers, and Wages: Does Timing Matter?” unpublished manuscript, Statistics Canada, No. 186.Google Scholar
  15. Ellwood, David T. and Christopher Jencks. (2001). “The Growing Differences in Family Structure: What Do We Know? Where Do We Look for Answers?” Manuscript prepared for the New Inequality Program supported by the Russell Sage Foundation (August), 99 pgs.Google Scholar
  16. Galor, Oded and David N. Weil. (1995). “The Gender Gap, Fertility and Growth”. Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) Discussion Paper No. 1157.Google Scholar
  17. Griliches, Zvi 1979“Sibling Models and Data in Economics: Beginnings of a Survey Part 2: Education and Income Distribution”Journal of Political Economy87S37S64Google Scholar
  18. Gustafsson, Siv 2001“Optimal Age at Motherhood Theoretical and Empirical Considerations on Postponement of Maternity in Europe”Journal of Population Economics14225247Google Scholar
  19. Harkness, Susan, Waldfogel, Jane 2003“The Family Gap in Pay: Evidence from Seven Industrialized Countries”Journal of Labor Research22369415Google Scholar
  20. Hewlett, Sylvia Ann. (2002). Creating a Life: Professional Women and the Quest for Children.Google Scholar
  21. Hill, Martha 1979“The Wage Effects of Marital Status and Children”Journal of Human Resources14579594Google Scholar
  22. Hotz, V. Joseph, Susan Williams McElroy, and Seth Sanders. (2002). “Teenage Childbearing and its Life Cycle Consequences: Exploiting a Natural Experiment”, unpublished manuscript.Google Scholar
  23. Iyigun, Murat F. 2000“Timing of Childbearing and Economic Growth”Journal of Development Economics61255269Google Scholar
  24. Korenman, Sanders, Neumark, David 1992“Marriage, Motherhood, and Wages”The Journal of Human Resources27233255Google Scholar
  25. Lappegard, Trude. (2000). “New Fertility Trends in Norway.” Demographic Research, Vol. 2, Article 3 (March), Scholar
  26. Martin, Joyce A., Brady Hamilton, Stephanie Ventura, Fay Menacker, and Melissa Park. (2002). “Births: Final Data for 2000” (Errata: updated July 3, 2002), National Vital Statistics Reports Volume 50, Number 5 (February).Google Scholar
  27. Martin, Steven P. 2000“Diverging Fertility Among U.S Women Who Delay Childbearing Past Age 30”Demography37523533Google Scholar
  28. Miller, Amalia R. (2003). “The Effects of Motherhood Timing on Career Path”. Unpublished manuscript, Stanford University, November.Google Scholar
  29. Murphy, Kevin, Welch, Finis 1990“Empirical Age-Earnings Profiles”Journal of Labor Economics8202229Google Scholar
  30. Mullin, Charles H. and Ping Wang. (2002). “The Timing of Childbearing Among Heterogeneous Women in Dynamic General Equilibrium”, NBER Working Paper # 9231 (October).Google Scholar
  31. National Center for Health Statistics. (2003). National Vital Statistics Reports, Volume 52, No. 10 (December 17), 114 pages.Google Scholar
  32. Neal, Derek. (2004). “The Measured Black-White Wage Gap Among Women Is Too Small”, Journal of Political Economy 112 (February), S1–S28.Google Scholar
  33. Neumark, David, Korenman, Sanders 1992“Marriage, Motherhood, and Wages”Journal of Human Resources27233255Google Scholar
  34. Nichols, Austin. (2003). “Fertility, Human Capital, and Wages”. Unpublished manuscript, University of Michigan, October.Google Scholar
  35. Population Council. (1999). “Demography: Birth Delays Skew Developing World’s Fertility Figures,” Population Briefs, Volume 5, Number 3 (September):;pb5(3)_2.html.Google Scholar
  36. Rindfuss, Ronald R., Morgan, Philip S., Offutt, Kate 1996“Education and the Changing Age Pattern of American Fertility: 1963–1989”Demography33277290Google Scholar
  37. Schmidt, Lucie. (2002). “Murphy Brown Revisited: Human Capital, Search and Nonmarital Childbearing Among Educated Women”, unpublished manuscript (University of Michigan), March.Google Scholar
  38. Taniguchi, Hiromi 1999“The Timing of Childbearing and Women’s Wages”Journal of Marriage and the Family6110081019Google Scholar
  39. Todd, Erin L. (2001). “Educational Attainment and Family Gaps in Women’s Wages: Evidence from Five Industrialized Countries”, Luxembourg Income Study Working Paper No. 246.Google Scholar
  40. Waldfogel, Jane 1997“The Effects of Children on Women’s Wages”American Sociological Review62209217Google Scholar
  41. Waldfogel, Jane 1998a“The Family Gap for Young Women in the United States and Britain: Can Maternity Leave Make a Difference?”Journal of Labor Economics16505545Google Scholar
  42. Waldfogel, Jane 1998bUnderstanding the “Family Gap” in Pay for Women with ChildrenThe Journal of Economic Perspectives12137156Google Scholar
  43. Wijsen, Cecile. and Clara Mulder. (2002). “Education, Motherhood Motivation and Child-timing Decision Making in the Netherlands” Unpublished manuscript, UvA, October.Google Scholar
  44. Wooldridge, Jeffrey M. 1995“Selection Corrections for Panel Data Models under Conditional Mean Independence Assumptions”Journal of Econometrics68115132Google Scholar
  45. Wooldridge, Jeffery M. 2002Econometric Analysis of Cross Section and Panel DataMIT PressCambridge752Google Scholar
  46. Wooldridge, Jeffery M. (2003). Introductory Econometrics. A Modern Approach. 2 e. Thomson South-Western.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EconomicsSan Diego State UniversitySan DiegoUSA
  2. 2.Department of EconomicsWestern Michigan UniversityKalamazooUSA

Personalised recommendations