Journal of Population Economics

, Volume 29, Issue 1, pp 39–72 | Cite as

Measuring the effect of the timing of first birth on wages

  • Jane Leber HerrEmail author
Original Paper


I study the effect of first-birth timing on women’s wages, defining timing in terms of labor force entry, rather than age. Considering the mechanisms by which timing may affect wages, each is a function of experience rather than age. This transformation also highlights the distinction between a first birth after labor market entry versus before. I show that estimates based on age understate the return to delay for women who remain childless at labor market entry and have obscured the negative return to delay—to a first birth after labor market entry rather than before—for all but college graduates. My results suggest, however, that these returns to first-birth timing may hold only for non-Hispanic white women.


First-birth timing Women Wages 

JEL Classification

J13 J31 J16 



I would like to thank David Card, Ronald Lee, Guido Imbens, Jesse Shapiro, Derek Neal, Elizabeth Weber Handwerker, Melanie Guldi, Emily Oster, Colleen Manchester, Sarah Hayford, Lucie Schmidt, Don Cox, Jenna Johnson-Hanks, Ashley Langer, Kevin Stange, Donna Ginther, Martha Bailey, Rachel Sullivan Robinson, two anonymous referees, and participants of the U.C. Berkeley labor seminar series, the University of Chicago’s Booth applied microeconomic series, the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago’s seminar series, and the Wellesley College labor lunch series for helpful comments. Lastly, I would like to thank the Center for Human Potential and Public Policy at the University of Chicago’s Harris School, and its director, Ariel Kalil, for support and guidance. Financial support for this work was provided by the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development (Interdisciplinary Training Grant No. T32-HD007275).

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Economics, Littauer CenterHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA

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