Women Are More Likely to Leave the Workforce After Their First Child Rather Than Leaving After Subsequent Children

A new study from Princeton University has found that, contrary to the popular theory that women are more likely to leave the workforce after having their second child, women are actually more likely to leave the labor force after their first child regardless of how many more times they give birth. Additionally, women who ultimately have more children are always more likely to leave, even prior to having these later births, according to the study.

“In the early 2000s, people were really worried about this phenomenon known as ‘opting-out,’ meaning that women were increasingly choosing to leave the labor force to have kids,” said lead-author Catherine Doren, a postdoctoral research associate with the Center for Research on Child Wellbeing and the Office of Population Research at Princeton. “There was an article in The Atlantic that came out talking about how women who were highly educated, very privileged, could have done anything with their careers, were choosing to leave at higher rates than in recent years. That actually wasn’t true.”

According to Dr. Doren, mothers were generally continuing to work. “Labor force participation was not increasing at the same rate as it had in the past, but women were definitely not opting out in large numbers like people thought they might be,” she said.

Additionally, Dr. Doren also found that women with a bachelor’s degree or higher who have only one child are especially unlikely to leave the labor force. “The number of children women went on to have was especially important for work patterns of highly educated women, even around the first birth, which suggests there is something unique about women who are highly educated and have only one child,” she said. “In fact, they might have had the child really late. They might have also decided at some point they were only going to have one kid with the intention of really putting a lot of energy into their careers.”

Dr. Doren holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, and a master’s degree and Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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