The Wage Effect
A few posts back (New Plots and Ripples) I promised to continue exploring the effects of starting family later in the wider world. But then I got side tracked by STUFF. Dear Reader, please pardon. Maybe you know how that goes.
But back to the list:
Effect # 5: Higher wages. This is a way big effect--and it puts the trend in a downright anthropological light: If delay of kids means you're better able to support those kids (given the shortsighted lack of social support for families in our current system), then the new later motherhood gives moms a means of better provisioning young for the long term. A form of species response to environment. Even if not planned in advance, it is something that women become aware of as they work their way up the employment ladders.
In my analysis of census data (see Ready chapter 3), comparing full-time working moms with equivalent degrees -- it turns out that moms who have their first child later end up making higher salaries long term than moms with the same kinds of degree who start earlier. That's because they're likely to have gotten their degrees earlier and spent more total time in the workforce, working up the ladders of experience and position, and establishing themselves as trusted and skilled before kids arrive.
Another study, by Kasey Buckles (forthcoming American Economic Review May 2008) looking at the effects of delay for women having their first kids up to age 36, finds a three percent annual return to delay (and that's compounded across those years of course). My findings echo those, and see a continuation through to first kids at 40 (and it may go further, but the data ends there).
While on the one hand these data suggest a that later moms are being canny in their delay, they also point to major failings in the current work system. More on that later!