University of Wisconsin–Madison

Works in Progress

Under Review

Doren, Catherine and Katherine Y. Lin. “Diverging Trajectories or Parallel Pathways? A Life Course Approach to the Gender Earnings Gap by Race and Education.”

Despite increases in gender equality in the family and the workplace in the United States, an earnings gap persists. Yet gender inequality is far more complex than a single point-in-time estimate of the earnings gap; there are important differences by age, education, and race. Guided by a life course perspective, we advance scholarship on gender inequality in the labor market by exploring how the trajectory of gender inequality varies across race and education groups. By integrating ideas about intersectional characteristics with life course theories, we uncover whether multiple inequalities are exacerbated, or undone, over the life course. We use data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 cohort to estimate growth curve models of annual earnings, paying attention to differences by race and educational attainment in the levels and slopes of men and women’s earnings from ages 22 to 47. Our findings indicate that racially- and educationally-advantaged groups see the greatest gender earnings divergence across life, supporting theories of cumulative advantage and glass ceilings. These findings lay a foundation for future research on the multiple mechanisms underpinning persistent gender inequality.


Doren, Catherine. “Is Two Too Many? Parity and Mothers’ Labor Force Exit.”

Many mothers leave the labor force during their childbearing years. Conventional wisdom and ethnographic evidence suggest there may be a tipping point at the second child when women are particularly likely to exit the labor force. Contrary to this hypothesis, I find no evidence for a tipping point around the birth of women’s second children. Women are most likely to leave the labor force when they are pregnant with their first child. Each subsequent child is associated with a smaller increase in the probability of labor force exit. Another key finding is that women who have more children are more likely to leave the labor force around each birth than are women who have fewer children. College educated women who only ever have one child are particularly unlikely to exit the labor force. These findings are inconsistent with studies of the causal effects of children on women’s labor force outcomes, which often imply that the effects of each additional child are equal. In addition, by contrast to the vast majority of demographic studies that focus on the effects of motherhood on women’s labor market outcomes and thus assume that the impacts of childbearing end upon the transition to first birth, the findings illustrate how women’s labor force exits vary by both current and completed parity across the life course.


In Preparation

Doren, Catherine. “The Education Gap in Women’s Earnings: The Role of Fertility Timing.”

Grodsky, Eric, Catherine Doren, Chandra Muller, and John Robert Warren. “Coming in to Focus: Education and Stratification at Midlife.”