Human Capital Investment and Fertility Choice among Highly Educated Women in the United States

Andrea Pellandra, Carnegie Mellon University

This paper focuses on the effect of investment in human capital on the fertility choices of college-educated American women. We propose a measure of human capital based on woman's potential earnings predicted by her highest degree and major. Women who have high earnings potential -- as measured by these pre-market factors -- generally have relatively low fertility. When we restrict attention to women whose highest degree is a Bachelor's, however, we do not find a significant relationship between potential earnings and fertility. These results point to the importance of factors other than the opportunity cost of woman's time in influencing fertility. These factors might include labor market factors (e.g., availability of part-time work or difficulty in taking time off work in certain occupations) as well as societal gender norms.

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Presented in Poster Session 1: Fertility Determinants, Family Planning, and Sexual Behavior