Opting Out among Women with Elite Education
Vanderbilt University - Law School; Vanderbilt University - Owen Graduate School of Management; Vanderbilt University - College of Arts and Science - Department of Economics
April 24, 2013
Vanderbilt Law and Economics Research Paper No. 13-05
Whether highly educated women are exiting the labor force to care for their children has generated a great deal of media attention, even though academic studies find little evidence of opting out. This paper shows that female graduates of elite institutions have lower labor market involvement than their counterparts from less selective institutions. Although elite graduates are more likely to earn advanced degrees, marry at later ages, and have higher expected earnings, there is little difference in labor market activity by college selectivity among women without children and women who are not married. But the presence of children is associated with far lower labor market activity among married elite graduates. Most women eventually marry and have children, and the net effect is that labor market activity is on average lower among elite graduates than among those from less selective institutions. The largest gap in labor market activity between graduates of elite institutions and less selective institutions is among MBAs, with married mothers who are graduates of elite institutions 30 percentage points less likely to be employed full-time than graduates of less selective institutions.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 60
Keywords: opting out, married women, female graduates, elite institutions, women graduates, mothers, labor market activity
JEL Classification: I21, J16, J22
Date posted: February 22, 2013 ; Last revised: May 15, 2013
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