Abstract:

Many studies show that during economic recessions childbearing tends to be postponed and that labor market uncertainties are important predictors of the postponement of parenthood. While the majority of the existing studies investigate the consequences of the deterioration of employment conditions in absolute terms, in this paper, I test the hypothesis that relative changes in occupational conditions affect childbearing choices. In particular, I follow Easterlin’s hypothesis of resources and aspirations to investigate how intergenerational mobility among American women during the Great Recession affected their chances of becoming mothers. Using the PSID 2003-2011 data and disposing of the entire labor market trajectories of respondents, I show that women who hold an occupational position as prestigious as the one held by their parents at the time they were growing up, are more likely than downward mobile women to enter motherhood. I further show that this mechanism is stronger during the recession, when aggregate labor market conditions deteriorate, compared to the pre-crisis period. This study contributes not only to the literature on the fertility response to the business cycle, but also to the literature on the nexus mobility-fertility, a very lively topic at the time when Easterlin developed his theory, but largely overlooked in the most recent studies. 

Chiara's researcher profile is available here.