…in the long run, that is. According to a preliminary study presented Thursday at a session of the Population Association of America meeting in Dallas, the age at which you have kids can affect your overall life earnings.
The “Motherhood Penalty”
Researchers from the University of Maryland at College Park and UCLA reviewed 35 years of data and found that that women who had kids in the early- to mid-20s or even younger didn’t fare as well economically as those who delayed. Apparently, those who did not have children had higher earnings, while those who did suffered what was referred to as the “motherhood penalty”, or lower wages for working mothers.
However, the research suggested that mothers who got more education and job training before having kids didn’t experience the “penalty”. “Women who delay childbearing end up as successful economically as women who didn’t have children, and we look at it basically throughout their adult years — well into their 50s,” co-author Joan Kahn, a sociologist at the University of Maryland in College Park, said.
The “Magic Number”
The study used age 26 as the “magic number”, but in reality there is nothing magical about it, Kahn said. Researchers only used that as a starting point because 20% of the study participants had their first-born at 26.
Kahn explained the main point: those who have kids early on and try to integrate themselves back into the workforce may not have the initial education or training that women who have kids a little later benefit from. The women who put off children for a while longer earned equivalent wages and had higher status occupations than the others, just like women who were childless.