Contextual Understanding of Lower Fertility Among U.S. Women in Professional Occupations

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Despite decades of research indicating that employed women in the United States have fewer children than other women, it remains unclear what it is about work, beyond work hours, that constrains fertility. The current study links a sample of 1,800 women of childbearing age who are employed at least part-time from the National Survey of Fertility Barriers with the Department of Labor’s Occupational Information Network to examine how characteristics of women’s jobs are associated with their fertility intentions and behaviors. Results indicate that women who work in more professional jobs (e.g., occupations with greater prestige, autonomy, complexity, and supervisory characteristics) are more likely to postpone childbearing than women employed in jobs with lower scores on professional characteristics. Women in more professional jobs do not want fewer children, however, and they report higher intentions to give birth. These findings suggest that women in more professional jobs face greater barriers to having children that they want to have.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)204-224
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Family Issues
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • fertility
  • fertility intentions
  • motherhood
  • occupational characteristics
  • postpone
  • work characteristics
  • work–family


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