University of Wisconsin–Madison

Publications

Doren, Catherine. Forthcoming. “Is Two Too Many? Parity and Mothers’ Labor Force Exit.” Journal of Marriage and Family.

How do women’s chances of labor force exit vary by the number of children they have? Conventional wisdom suggests there may be a tipping point at the second child when women are particularly likely to leave. Women who only ever have one child, by contrast, are thought to be uniquely unlikely to exit. Using data from the nationally representative 1979-2012 waves of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 (https://www.nlsinfo.org/content/cohorts/nlsy79), event history methods estimate the likelihood of labor force exit as women progress across parity transitions. Results show no evidence for a tipping point around the birth of second children. Women are instead most likely to leave the labor force when they are pregnant with their first child and each subsequent child is associated with a smaller increase in the probability of exit. In addition, women who only ever have one child are less likely to leave the labor force than those who have more children and these differences arise as early as their pregnancies with their first children. College-educated women who only ever have one child are especially unlikely to exit. Findings thus do not support the second child tipping point hypothesis, but they emphasize the importance of completed parity and the transition to motherhood formothers’ labor force behavior.

 

Doren, Catherine and Eric Grodsky. 2016. “What skills can buy: Transmission of advantage through cognitive and noncognitive skills.Sociology of Education 89(4): 321-342.

Parental income and wealth contribute to children’s success but are at least partly endogenous to parents’ cognitive and noncognitive skills.We estimate the degree to which mothers’ skills measured in early adult- hood confound the relationship between their economic resources and their children’s postsecondary education outcomes. Analyses of National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 suggest that maternal cog- nitive and noncognitive skills attenuate half of parental income’s association with child baccalaureate col- lege attendance, a fifth of its association with elite college attendance, and a quarter of its association with bachelor’s degree completion. Maternal skills likewise attenuate a third of parental wealth’s association with children’s baccalaureate college attendance, half of its association with elite college attendance, and a fifth of its association with bachelor’s degree completion. Observational studies of the relationship between parents’ economic resources and children’s postsecondary attainments that fail to account for parental skills risk seriously overstating the benefits of parental income and wealth.