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Women Who Delay Children Earn More, But Childbearing Back in Vogue

August 18, 1986

CHICAGO (AP) _ Working women who delay childbearing beyond age 27 earn more money than those who have children before the age of 22, regardless of differences in education and experience, the author of a study said Monday.

Childbearing, however, appears to be back in vogue and a recent trend among women not to have children may be reversing, said David E. Bloom, associate professor of economics at Harvard University.

Bloom, also affiliated with the National Bureau of Economic Research in Cambridge, Mass., said results of his study ″suggest that delaying childbearing does affect a woman’s earnings.″

Bloom, who analyzed 1985 data from the U.S. Bureau of the Census, announced his study Monday at the start of the Joint Statistical Meetings, an annual conference attracting more than 3,000 statisticians from government, industry and academia.

Bloom attributed most of the wage variations between early and late childbearers and childless women to differences in education and work experience.

But even after accounting for such variables, Bloom said his research revealed that women who delayed childbearing beyond age 27 earn about 10 percent more than women who had their first child before age 22.

″There’s a ‘labor market bonus’ associated with childbearing now that can’t be fully explained by differences in education and experience,″ he said.

Previous studies had shown that women who delayed childbearing earned more, but their higher wages were solely due to the fact that they had more education or experience, he said.

One reason women who delay having children earn more is that they probably entered the work force at a young age and people may learn job skills better in their 20s, Bloom said.

″Another reason is that, in many respects to get good at a job, you have to eat, drink and sleep it for awhile,″ he said. ″Delaying children allows a woman to be a workaholic.″

Bloom said childless managers and executives earn a ‘labor market bonus’ of 15 percent to 20 percent more than women managers with children, regardless of their age when they had the children.

Bloom also projects that 15.5 percent of American women born between 1956 and 1960, the peak of the baby boom, will be permanently childless. That is 2.5 percentage points less than the 18 percent predicted childless among women born between 1951 and 1955, he said.

Forty-two percent of women born between 1956 and 1960 are currently childless, he said, but ″the relatively high rate of current childlessness will translate into relatively low rates of permanent childlessness as a result of high first birth fertility rates over the next two decades. ...

″Childbearing will be coming back into vogue, especially for women in their 30s and 40s,″ he said.

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