Parenthood Timing and Socioeconomic Consequences in Young Adulthood: A Longitudinal Analysis of Women and Men

Maarten Jacob Bijlsma, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research
Pekka Martikainen, Centre for Health Equity Studies
Mikko Myrskylä, London School of Economics and Political Science
Jessica Nisén, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research
Ben Wilson, Stockholm University

The postponement of parenthood has been one of the most profound changes in family formation throughout the last half a century. The relatedness of the age at entering parenthood to outcomes in other life spheres in young adulthood has been widely explored in women. Studies covering men suggest that parenthood associates with socioeconomic characteristics in young adulthood more strongly among women. It remains unclear, what the causalities and mediating factors behind these associations are, and what exactly causes gender differences. This study assesses the consequences of the postponement of parenthood on socioeconomic characteristics in the young adult population generally, among parents-to-be, and the mutually mediating effects and gender differences therein.

The study is based on a 10-percent household sample in the census in Finland in 1975, with links to annual register-based socio-demographic attributes in 1987-2007. Women and men born in 1974-75 are followed from age 16 to 32 (N=11,061). In the statistical analysis we apply the g-formula, where we implement a counterfactual scenario where the entry into parenthood is postponed by five years. Time-varying confounding is controlled for by simultaneous mutual effects and time-invariant confounding by a set of background characteristics measured at age 15.

In the preliminary results, educational attainment and enrolment in both the female and male general population were affected by the postponement, but the effects appeared stronger among women. The cumulative effect on attainment by age 32 was 10.1 percent (95% CI 6.1-15.0%) among women and 5.7 percent (95% CI 1.0-10.9%) among men. In terms of employment and income only women were affected.

The postponement of parenthood changes the young adulthood life stage with regard to socioeconomic standing in particular among women. Given the current findings, the postponement of parenthood itself may contribute to the strengthening of the socioeconomic position of women relative to men.

Presented in Session 61: Transition to Parenthood