Women in Science, Lessons from the Baby Boom
We examine how children affect productivity - and more specifically the timing of productivity - and how these differences impact tenure and participation. Our data include patents and publications matched with the biographies of 83,000 American scientists in 1956, at the height of the baby boom (1946-64). Examining productivity over the life cycle, we find that mothers' output peaks in their early 40s, several years after other scientists have started to decline. Event studies of marriage show that mothers' productivity declines for the first 15 years of marriage but then experiences a large and sustained increase, long after other scientists have started to decline. Differences in the timing of productivity have important implications for tenure: Mothers are 21 percent less likely to earn tenure compared with fathers and 19 percent less compared with other women. Importantly, there is no evidence that mothers are less productive than other women before marriage. Female scientists are, however, more likely to have a PhD, less likely to marry or have children, and they are less likely to survive in science. Employment data reveal a dramatic decline in participation by women of child-bearing age during the baby boom, suggesting that the disproportionate burden of parenting wiped out a generation of women in science.