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, an earnings gap persists. Yet gender inequality is more complex than a single point-in-time estimate of the earnings gap; there are important differences by age, education, and race. Integrating ideas about intersectionality with life course theories, we explore how trajectories of gender earnings inequality vary across race and education. We uncover whether multiple forms of inequality are maintained, exacerbated, or undone over the life course. With data from theNational Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 cohort, we estimate growth curve models of annual earnings, paying attention to differences by race and education in the levels and slopes of men and women’s earnings from ages 22 to 47. Racially- and educationally-advantaged groups see the greatest gender earnings divergence across life, supporting theories of cumulative advantage and intersectionality.These findings lay a foundation for future research on the multiple mechanisms underpinning persistent gender inequality.


Doren, Catherine. “Do Some Mothers Pay a Higher Price? Variation in Motherhood Wage Penalties by Education, Parity, and Fertility Timing.”

Upon becoming mothers, women experience a decline in wages and recent scholarship suggests that the magnitude of this change may differ by their educational attainment. Yet education is also predictive of when women have children and how many they have, which past work suggests can affect the size of this wage change. To what extent are the parity and timing of births associated with variation in the motherhood wage penalty—the within-person difference in wages in years prior to and after becoming a mother—and to what degree does this differ by women’s education? Using fixed-effects models and data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979, I estimate heterogeneous effects of motherhood by parity and by age at births, considering how these relationships differ by educational attainment. For women with a college degree, first births were associated with a small wage penalty overall, but the penalty was larger for earlier first births, declined with higher ages at first birth, and a premium was even reaped by women who delayed fertility until their mid-thirties. Second and third births, however, did have negative effects on their wages. Less educated women instead faced a wage penalty at all births and delaying fertility did not minimize the penalty. These findings suggest that education differences in motherhood wage penalties are more complex than past estimates have revealed.


Conwell, Jordan A. and Catherine Doren. “Racial Stratification in the Second Demographic Transition and Its Implications for Child Development.”

Drawing on a Du Boisian motivation for the study of Black families, Black children, and the comparative analysis of the social class structures among Blacks and Whites, we investigate whether Black and White women who have attained the same level of education have different family formation patterns on a range of outcomes related to the Second Demographic Transition (SDT). We also assess whether such differences are related to racial gaps, within maternal education groups, in children’s development outcomes. We use data on mothers and children from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 2010-11. We find that, within each education group (less than high school, high school, some college, bachelor’s degree or higher), Black women often have significantly different family formation patterns than their White peers: on average, they have earlier ages at childbirth, are less likely to be married at childbirth and to be part of two-parent households by the time those children begin kindergarten, and their households include higher numbers of children under age 18. When we control for a small set of these measures, we fully account for significant Black-White gaps (by mother’s race) in school-entry reading achievement within maternal education groups and find a net Black advantage among children of the highest-educated mothers. Our study demonstrates that there has been racial stratification in the benefits and penalties associated with the SDT and that this variation may help perpetuate multigenerational racial inequality within socioeconomic status groups.


Grodsky, Eric, Catherine Doren, Chandra Muller, and John Robert Warren. “Continuing Education and Stratification at Midlife.”

In this paper, we ask whether patterns of racial/ethnic and socioeconomic stratification are amplified or attenuated when we take a longer view of educational attainment. We also explore the extent to which levels of academic achievement and skills earlier in the life course continue to shape educational attainment toward midlife. Results based on data from the recently completed fifth follow-up of the sophomore cohort of High School and Beyond suggest that the educational attainment process is far from over as our respondents enter their 30s and 40s, with more than six of ten continuing their formal training during this period and four of ten earning an additional credential. Patterns of educational stratification at midlife are becoming more pronounced in some ways, as women pull further away from men in their educational attainments and parental education and high school academic achievement continue to shape educational trajectories at the baccalaureate level and beyond. However, African Americans gain on whites during this phase of life through continued formal (largely academic) training and slightly greater conditional probabilities of graduate or professional degree attainment and social background fails to predict earning an associate’s degree. While the complexities of these patterned processes of attainment fail to support our theory of stage-dependent stratification, the sheer magnitude of these educational shifts suggest the importance of understanding how they contribute to educational inequality across the life course.


Manuscripts in Progress

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

Doren, Catherine, Jordan Conwell, and Leafia Ye. “Double Divergence: Marriage and its Economic Payoffs by Women’s Race and Education, 1950-2010.”