Fertility Delay and Childlessness among College Graduates: What Can We Learn from Variation by Field of Study?

Katherine Michelmore, Cornell University

College graduates are increasingly distinct in their family formation behaviors. Compared to women with less education, they are much more likely to postpone childbearing until marriage. They start their families later and have higher levels of childlessness and fewer children overall. There has been growing interest in the divergence of family patterns by education, but little work has focused on variation within the later and lower fertility pattern characteristic of U.S. college graduates. We use the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) to investigate how differences within the college-going population are shaped by characteristics of undergraduate field of study. Building on recent European research, and in an effort to better understand the mechanisms linking education and family formation, we explore how earnings profiles, work hours, gender composition, and (in planned extensions) family attitudes at the level of fields relate to the fertility timing and childlessness of U.S. college graduates.

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Presented in Poster Session 3