Does Spacing Matter? The Effect of Child Spacing on the Cumulative Labor Force Outcomes of Mothers

Margaret Gough, University of Michigan
Alexandra Killewald, University of Michigan

The role of first-birth timing for mothers’ economic outcomes has interested researchers for some time, yet research that considers the implications of the spacing of children, in addition to the timing, is sparse. Longer birth intervals may disadvantage women by prolonging the child-rearing period and extending time out of full-time employment, or, alternatively, may advantage women by diminishing the intensity of the child-rearing period, facilitating ongoing labor force attachment. We use longitudinal data from NLSY79 and employ a matching strategy to estimate the long-term effect of long birth intervals on mothers' labor force outcomes. By doing so, we contribute to the literature on the intersection between women’s fertility and their labor force outcomes, filling a gap in the literature that has disproportionately ignored the implications of decisions about higher-parity births.

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Presented in Session 117: Timing of Childbearing and Fertility Transitions: Establishing Cause and Effect