32 Pages Posted: 3 Jan 2008 Last revised: 27 Jul 2009
Date Written: October 24, 2008
This paper exploits biological fertility shocks as instrumental variables to estimate the causal effect of motherhood delay on the cognitive ability of the next generation. Using detailed panel data on women in the NLSY79 and their first-born children aged 5 to 14, we find that a year of delay leads to significant increases in math and reading scores: a 7 year delay produces gains on par with the black-white score difference. These results reveal a potential weakness of pro-natalist policies that promote early motherhood. While such policies may succeed at increasing total period fertility rates, they will be less effective at increasing total human capital.
Keywords: motherhood delay; fertility incentives; human capital development
JEL Classification: J13, J18, J24
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation