Field of Study and Fertility Patterns Among U.S College Graduates


  • Katherine Michelmore
  • Kelly Musick
Keywords: childlessness, delayed childbearing, education, fertility, field of study


Building on recent European studies, we use the Survey of Income and Program Participation to provide the first broad, descriptive portrait of fertility differences within the U.S. college-going population by undergraduate field of study. We rely on multilevel event history models to investigate potential mechanisms linking field of study to delayed fertility and childlessness. We find a 10 percentage point difference in levels of childlessness across fields, with women in health and education having the lowest levels of childlessness, women in science and technology falling in the middle, and women in arts and social sciences having the highest levels, consistent with European patterns. Institutional and selection mechanisms are assessed with measures of motherhood employment penalties, gender composition, family attitudes, and marriage patterns characteristic of fields of study. Childlessness is higher among women in fields with moderate male representation, less traditional family attitudes, and late age at first marriage.


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