Women in Science, Lessons from the Baby Boom
Women in Science, Lessons from the Baby Boom (Scott Kim (Penn) and Petra Moser, NYU)
How do children impact innovation and productivity in science? To answer this question, we examine detailed biographical data for 83,000 American scientists in 1956, at the height of the baby boom (1946-64). Using patents to measure productivity, we show that mothers have a unique pattern of productivity across the life cycle, reaching peak productivity in their early 40s, long after other scientists decline. Event studies of marriage reveal that mothers experience a large and persistent increase in output after the first 15 years of marriage, while other scientists begin to fade after the first 10 years of marriage. These differences in timing have important implications for gender inequality in science: mothers were 21 percent less likely to advance to tenure compared with fathers, and 19 percent less than other women. Analyses of selection yield no evidence that mothers were less productive than other women before marriage. However, female scientists, and especially mothers, were less likely to survive in science. Scientist-level employment data reveal a dramatic decline in participation by women who were of child-bearing age during the baby boom. These findings suggest that the baby boom wiped out a generation of women in science.