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.” (Invitation to Revise and Resubmit to Social Forces.)

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.” (Revised and Resubmitted to Journal of Marriage and Family.) To be presented at ASA 2018.

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 (, 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.


Conwell, Jordan A. and Catherine Doren. “Racial Differences in Family Formation Within Maternal Education Groups and Their Implications for Children’s Early Academic Skills.” (Under Review at Demography)

Women with high versus low levels of education have had increasingly disparate family formation patterns in recent decades, evidenced on measures such as age at first childbirth and rates of single motherhood. Few studies have investigated 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 these trends. 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 still 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. We also find that this variation plays a key role in producing gaps in early academic skills between the children of Black and White mothers who have the same educational attainment. When we control for a small set of these measures, we fully account for the significant Black-White gaps (by mother’s race) in school-entry reading achievement within maternal education groups. Our study demonstrates that there has been racial stratification in the benefits and penalties associated with the second demographic transition and that this variation perpetuates multigenerational racial inequality within socioeconomic status groups.


In Preparation

Doren, Catherine. “Do Some Mothers Pay a Higher Price? Variation in Motherhood Wage Penalties by Education, Parity, and Fertility Timing.” To be presented WFRN 2018.

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