Highly Educated Women Are Having More Children


Downton Abbey
Downton Abbey

Demographers have long reported that as women join the market economy and move up the income curve, they have fewer and fewer children. This appears to be changing. A new study in the Economic Journal looks at U.S. fertility trends and finds U-shaped fertility rates based on the educational levels of women. Specifically, the researchers report that highly educated American women are earning enough money to outsource child-rearing and domestic chores. Since they can earn more in the market than it costs to pay for child-rearing and housecleaning, they are choosing to have more children. How does this work? From the study:

Marketization, however, affects the price for quantity that parents face. For parents with low levels of human capital, (i.e., low income), marketization is low and thus the parents themselves engage in most of the child-raising. …  In contrast, parents with high levels of human capital optimally outsource a major part of their child-raising, which, in turn, reduces the cost of children from the parents' point of view. We show that this reduction can be sufficiently large to induce an increase in fertility above a certain level of human capital.

In our basic model, parental time spent on raising children decreases with parents' human capital. This occurs because the fraction of income allocated to raising children decreases with the parents' human capital while parental reliance on market substitutes increases with human capital…

Our model demonstrates how parents can substitute their own parenting time for market-purchased childcare. We show that highly educated women substitute a significant part of their own parenting with childcare. This enables them to have more children and work longer hours.

For more background on this phenomenon, see also my 2009, "Demographic Transition Reverses: Are the Wealthy Having More Kids?"

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  1. Imagine when gestation can take place outside the womb. We’ll have a overpopulation crisis! (But 100% nanny employment.)

  2. A lot of jargon to say that women with enough money to hire nannies tend to have more children.

    1. NGKC: Perhaps, but they do provide the data that confirms this economic insight.

      1. I wasn’t criticizing their research, I was criticizing their avoidance of plain English words.

        Why do social scientists find this necessary?

        1. Too much time in academia does that.

          1. STEM envy? They want to be able to have their own specialized language just like hard scientists?

            1. Is that what the kids are calling it these days-“STEM envy”?

    2. I don’t get it. They spend all that money of rearing staff? I was raised by a Harlow wire monkey and a Skinner box. There was very little overhead cost to that, according to the audit of my family finances I did when I seized control at age 11. And I turned out fine.

      1. What do you mean you turned out fine?

      2. “And I turned out fine.”

        I think I found the flaw in your logic.

  3. I don’t get it. Why would you actually want screaming poop machines?

    I can see if it was an accident or something, but why condemn yourself to 20 some years of slavery intentionally?

    1. So they can make their lady friends jealous.

    2. To be taken care of when you’re old and infirm.

      1. Can’t you just rely on Social Security and hire home-care aides?

        1. /sarc

      2. With the money you save by NOT having them, you can set yourself up with a hot nurse.

          1. Whenever I see those decals, I think they represent people ran over by this car.

            You know, like on military airplanes, they used stars, each star representing enemy aircraft shot down.

            1. Should put them under the driver-side window. That’d be hilarious.

    3. My kid is an accident. Not unwanted, but definitely an accident. I always thought the same as you until she came along. Now I wish I’d reproduced earlier in life.

      1. You don’t miss what you never had.

        1. You can’t fairly criticize something you’ve never had.

            1. Never had cancer. Pretty sure it sucks.

              1. Yeah, but have you ever had a shit sandwich? Then how do you know it sucks?

                1. Zimmerman would beg to differ.

                  1. About the shit sandwich.

    4. Unfathomable joy and pride do the trick for me.

      1. True, but there’s always a little vanity involved. Wait till you start wearing matching outfits.

        1. Nothing says ‘togetherness’ like matching realtree camo.

        2. My wife thinks this is a great idea. Is there any way to dissuade her?

    5. why condemn yourself to 20 some years of slavery intentionally?

      That’s the point. They aren’t condemning themselves to years of slavery. They’re condemning themselves to years of hiring someone instead.

      1. I wonder: who does all this child-rearing, and what are they being paid?

        If it is anything like what goes on in the environs of NYC, the vast majority of it is cash-based, unreported, untaxed, and utilizes a lot of (il-,un-,quasi-)legal immigrants.

      2. They’re essentially setting themselves in the grandparents’ role: they get all the fun, then hand the kid over when there’s a mess.

      3. My Mom told me on several occassions that if she had to do it all over again she would have just had dogs. I’m pretty sure if that had been the case she would have hired a nanny for them as well.

    6. “I don’t get it. Why would you actually want screaming poop machines?

      I can see if it was an accident or something, but why condemn yourself to 20 some years of slavery intentionally?”

      Aren’t those questions better addressed by your mother? 😉

    7. I’m just fucking with you (mostly).

      I always assumed I’d have kids, because…that’s what you do. I married a one in a million woman, who talked me down. (And she’s a libertarian with internal reproductive organs…a truly rare find.)

      1. This is a thing I really hate. People who, to me, seem like the type that should be having children because they’d raise them well who decide not to have children.

        And then there’s what Fist said.

        Right now I’m having to deal with two elderly friends who have no kids.

        They’re clearly expecting parental levels of attention–but we’ve got actual parents and our own children to deal with. So they’re not getting that type of attention.

        And yes, you can hire a nurse or an aide–but it seems better to have people around that actually care, that are really invested in your life.

        1. So the reason to have kids is so you can be a burden to them when you can no longer care for yourself?

          Sorry, rather not.

    8. Dogs last about 14 years.

      Kids are like pets that you don’t have to watch die.

      1. Or hope you don’t.

        It’s a frequent nightmare and subject of daytime mental meanderings and gut checks for me.

  4. Highly Educated Women Are Having More Children

    The question is more than what?

    I skimmed their publication. Women with 16+ years of schooling are having more kids than college graduates or those with some college, but they are still having less than HS graduates or those who didn’t graduate HS.

    So yes the Mistresses of the Universe with their MBAs and DVMs are doing all right, but affordable family formation for the middle class still sucks.

  5. Love, affection, shared family history, connection, companionship, having someone know you well enough to call you on your shit and hold you accountable.

    1. ^Why people have children.

      1. What about training them to take over the world, and building giant statues in your honor? (Pyramids are also acceptable, but absolutely no football stadiums).

        1. ^ That’s why I had so many kids.

  6. Highly Educated Women Are Having More Children

    Its not like they have jobs to go to if they are in their mid-20s.

  7. So.. The meek won’t inherit the Earth after all?

  8. Specifically, the researchers report that highly educated American women are earning enough money to outsource child-rearing and domestic chores.

    And their husbands are very thankful for the young and supple European au pair market.

    1. All of the European au pairs around here come from Central America.

      1. I assume they don’t have kids of their own. Because the Babushka gene landed hard on Central America.

      2. You should come to the east coast. They get all the eastern European women.

        1. Related but sad story: A friend of mine moved to NYC, and hired a Dominican nanny. The nanny ended up murdering 2 of her kids. I have had trouble trusting my kids with non-family members since then…

          1. Holy fuck. Yeah, that would give me some serious stranger issues as well.

            FWIW, not being wealthy enough to afford nannies, the wife-unit stayed home for the first 5 years to provide some parenting to the youngins. She was sane only for about the first 2.

            We had some mighty big credit card bills at the end of those 5 years, with my inadequate single income at the time.

  9. So… I have four children because I have a PhD?
    How about we have to work more to support all these children we had because good lord, somebody has to raise the caliber of the gene pool!

    1. I have four children because I have a PhD?

      Those aren’t your children…cuz ROADZ!!!

      1. Well, you’re partially correct… I’m pretty sure these kids own me, not the other way around.

  10. Highly educated women like to and tend to marry highly educated men. The highly educated make significantly more money – highly educated men specifically. So, if their family unit is on average earning more, more children wouldn’t necessarily be a burden. I’d be curious to see how many of those highly educated women birthing multiple children are working full-time. My guess is a lower percentage of them work full-time than middle-class women.

    1. n = 1, but I’m overemployed with a full-time job and part-time freelance work.

  11. Since they can earn more in the market than it costs to pay for child-rearing and housecleaning, they are choosing to have more children.

    So when domestic robots become cheap and widely available we can expect NPR to tell us that the ensuing population explosion is the fault of evil robots.

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