Conventional wisdom says highly educated women and those who work more have fewer children—that for them, the time a child costs may not be justified by the time lost in a career. Historically, this has been true. Women who drop out of high school, on average, have 2.24 children, followed by high school graduates, then women with some college, who have a fertility rate of 1.79. The rate used to keep falling in correlation with a woman’s education.
But since 2001, the most educated and busiest American women have actually begun to have more children, according to economists Moshe Hazan and Hosny Zoabi, who wrote these findings in a recent report published online for the Centre for Economic Policy Research. The reason for this change, the Tel Aviv University economists reasoned, had less to do with the typical reasons we think a person decides to start a family, and more with the conventions of the market.
“Kids are like durable goods,” Hazan says. The decision to have children is partly ruled by the same cost-and-benefit analysis we bring to purchasing a television or a sports car.
Hazan and Zoabi found that from 2001 to 2011, women with a bachelor’s degree saw a rise in fertility rates (up to 1.93) over women with some college education. For women with a master’s or a doctorate, the rate rose even higher, to 1.98. When represented in a graph, this made a U-shaped curve, bottoming out with women who had taken some college courses, and rising incrementally with educational attainment.