Opting-Out Occupationally? US Women’s Post-Birth Occupational Behavior

Rachel S. Robinson, American University

Women’s labor force participation following the birth of a child has garnered both popular and scholarly interest in recent years. Tales in the media of professional women who bid the firm farewell after having a child (cf. Belkin 2003) have fostered a lively public debate about an “opt-out” revolution. Academic research has shown, however, that such a revolution has not occurred, at least when it is understood as mothers completely stopping working (Boushey 2005, 2007). This extremely important research has not yet addressed a second component of “opting out,” namely a shift in occupation among professional women in order to make work more compatible with childrearing. In this paper, I will use the Panel Study of Income Dynamics to explore occupational shifts following births to professional women. In preliminary analysis, I find that professional women with a birth are more likely to shift to nonprofessional occupations than those without a birth.

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Presented in Poster Session 1