Study highlights correlation between motherhood, lifetime income

Jasleen Shokar

Women who wait to have children until after their 30th birthday are more likely to earn a higher lifetime income, according to a recent study. 

The Washington University in St. Louis study, which collected data from 1.6 million Danish women, found a correlation between women who have children at a young age and lower incomes. Conversely, the data revealed women who waited to have children had a better chance of higher lifetime incomes. Researchers found no statistically significant difference between women with college degrees and those without.

Sociology professor Jennifer Glass, who is also the executive director of the Council on Contemporary Families Department of Sociology and Population Research Center, said the statistics are most likely worse for Americans.

“Mothers’ earnings are so country-specific to their own labor markets and level of discrimination and family policy assistance,” Glass said. 

Grace Gilker, Women’s Resource Agency director and Plan II and history sophomore, said there have been improvements in work-life balance.

“We’ve made a lot of progress in the idea that women should be able to share housework and childrearing,” Gilker said. “But the work and price [of having children] from a career standpoint still falls very heavily on the woman.” 

Family planning should be integrated in career advising, Gilker said.

“If a man has a child, it helps his career, where it often hurts, if not ends, a woman’s,” Gilker said. “Support for policies such as paid family leave and child care options should be more widely incorporated into corporate America and academia.” 

Tatem Oldham, assistant director for Liberal Arts Career Services, said there is no specific guidance for family planning concerns in career advising for students.

“Occasionally students bring up this conversation with us, normally under the pretext of wanting a career that allows for life-work balance,” Oldham said. “I’ve never had a student ask me when she or he should start a family, based on their career goals.”

Sherry Bell, senior program coordinator for University Health Services (UHS), said UHS provides contraceptive education and clinical services for students.

“Students who want to learn more about contraceptive choices can go to University Health Services website,” Bell said. “Students wanting to start, change or better manage a prescription method of birth control can schedule an appointment at the UHS Women’s Health Clinic.”

Gilker said family planning and access to contraception are vital. 

“Unplanned pregnancy can derail academic and professional careers, leading to economic disadvantage for both mother and baby,” Gilker said.