Unburdened Under 30: Why Should You Wait to Have Children?

by Ryan Morris
Gender, Jobs - 3 years ago

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To have a kid, or not to have a kid — that is the question. And it’s a tough one.

After all, children are messy and take up a huge amount of your time, in addition to which they’re basically tiny black holes that eat money. Don’t believe us? We have a calculator that might convince you otherwise.

Despite this, people can’t seem to get enough of those little bundles of joy, and every other week it seems like there’s a new think piece about how having a baby changed someone’s life, made them realize the world was beautiful and worth living in, or some other sappy nonsense like that. The fact is that children can be really great when you’re ready for them, when you’ve taken the time to open up your lives (and wallets) to the experience of having them.

But that hasn’t stopped young people from having fewer and fewer children, a fact that seems utterly baffling to anyone who hasn’t heard about how cool birth control is. The reasons for choosing to not have a child are legion, but for many, the biggest reason is that they’re looking to reach some kind of stability — for those who reach it, the benefits can be tremendous. In fact, according to this Washington Post article, women in their 30s (who are most likely to have higher levels of financial stability) are experiencing a booming birth rate.

That got us wondering — what sort of effect did having a child early in life have on a woman’s career? And what sort of jobs or industries were women who’d had children before the age of thirty most likely to have? Using PUMS data from the US Census Bureau, we tried to answer this.

The Data

For this article, we looked at data for women between the ages of 29-31 who held jobs between 2011-2015. Specifically, we looked at the percentages of women in each job industry who had had children by the time they reached this age.

You’ll find the full list below, but first, here’s a list of the top twenty jobs.

As you can see, top of the list is Door-To-Door Sales Workers and News And Street Vendors, with Medical Assistants and Miscellaneous Metal Workers And Plastic Workers taking up the second and third spots respectively.

Despite these options being highest on the list, it’s the workers of various office positions who seem to appear most frequently in the top twenty list. Workers in positions like Payroll and Timekeeping Clerks, Court, Municipal and License Clerks, and Credit Authorizers, Checkers, and Clerks all appear early on in our data, giving the impression that office jobs are the industry wherein working women are the most likely to have children.

However, this story changes a little bit when we get to our industry data:

It’s clear from this graph, which shows which industries themselves have the highest likelihood of working women having children, that Office Jobs are not the highest on the list — in fact, they’re all the way down in spot number 7.

The industry with the highest percentage of women with children is actually Health Services jobs, especially when it comes to positions like Medical Assistants or Nursing, Psychiatric, And Home Health Aides.

So Why These Jobs?

Ultimately, this data on its own isn’t all that revelatory, but it underlines a long-existing problem — that women who have children before the age of thirty often have a difficult time finding jobs in careers that require high levels of education.

Take a look at that first graph again. The highest five jobs on that list were, in order: 1) Door-To-Door Sales Workers, News And Street Vendors, 2) Medical Assistants, 3) Miscellaneous Metal Workers And Plastic Workers, 4) Bus Drivers, and 5) Tax Preparers. These are all positions that (at most) require an associate’s degree, and which in some cases require no degree at all. Consequently, they’re also positions that a woman who has given up an earlier career in order to take care of her children would be able to find with relative ease.

That’s not to disparage any of these jobs, or the people who would choose to work them — the fact is that these are often difficult positions with a lot of movement, tedious work, or long hours involved, and often are a combination of the three. But in the event that having a child before the age of thirty had no effect on one’s ability to find a job, you would expect some positions with higher education or training requirements to show up at some point on the list. They never do — instead, the list continues with positions like Weighers, Measurers, Checkers and Samplers, or Religious Workers, or Bill Collectors.

So why is this?

Part of this might be a simple numbers game — there are more of these lower-expertise, lower-income jobs available, so working women would have them due purely to their availability if nothing else. There’s also the fact that in general, the median age for highly educated women to become mothers is around 30 years old, which is also bound to have an effect on this data. But there’s a bit more than this at play here.

Studies have shown that women who hold off on having kids until the age of 30 have significantly lower child-related income drops than those who do have children by then, according to this article from Washington University School of Medicine. The effect is even more pronounced on women without college degrees, losing about two and a half years of their average annual salary over the course of their career.

For those concerned about income loss, the point is not to avoid having children — it’s to have them at the right time. That same Washington University School of Medicine article mentions that while women who give birth before the age of 28 consistently earn less over their lifetime than those who don’t, a strange things happen to those who have children after the age of 31 — rather than lose money, these women actually earn more over the course of their careers. There’s a short term income loss that occurs after any woman has a child, but the older a person is before becoming a mother, the easier this loss is to overcome. In fact, those who wait until the age of 47 add about a half year’s salary to what they’ll earn over the course of their lives.

Wrapping Up

Ultimately, the decision to have a child is one that continues to weigh on women much more than it does on men. Besides the obvious reasons for this (um, they’re the ones having the kid), the income drop that occurs for women with children at an early age is something that working men simply don’t have to contend with. In fact, if you’re a man and have a child in your twenties, you’re more likely to improve your career and make more money in the long run, according to this NY Times article. Men with children are more likely to be hired in the first place than those without, and men also tend to get paid more money after having a child regardless of their age.

Why could this be? What possible reason could there be that women might be punished, financially or otherwise, for doing something that men are regularly rewarded for?

Don’t worry, this isn’t a trick question. It’s sexism. The answer is sexism.

So if you’re a young woman in your twenties plugging away at your nine-to-five job concerned that maybe you aren’t spending enough time planning for your family, you can rest easy knowing that waiting to have kids is almost certainly the smarter option from a financial perspective. If that’s not enough for you, and you find yourself cursing the existence of a institution that routinely punishes its most vulnerable citizens for simply existing, and want to be able to both have a career and start a family in the same way that men are routinely able to do without being punished by this system that you’ve already spent your entire life having to navigate — well, we’re not sure what else to say there.

As for a silver lining, at least waiting to have a kid will let you live a little longer, if nothing else.

Job Description Mean (%)
SAL-Door-To-Door Sales Workers, News And Street Vendors, 77.55%
HLS-Medical Assistants 71.67%
PRD-Miscellaneous Metal Workers And Plastic Workers, Including 71.57%
TRN-Bus Drivers 70.50%
FIN-Tax Preparers 68.97%
OFF-Postal Service Clerks 68.97%
PRD-Tailors, Dressmakers, And Sewers 68.75%
OFF-Weighers, Measurers, Checkers, And Samplers, 68.63%
CMS-Religious Workers, All Other 68.18%
OFF-Postal Service Mail Carriers 67.01%
PRT-Private Detectives And Investigators 65.96%
PRD-Food Processing Workers, All Other 65.91%
HLS-Nursing, Psychiatric, And Home Health Aides 65.82%
OFF-Mail Clerks And Mail Machine Operators, Except Postal 65.79%
FFF-Miscellaneous Agricultural Workers, Including Animal 65.65%
CON-First-Line Supervisors Of Construction Trades And 65.52%
MED-Licensed Practical And Licensed Vocational Nurses 65.38%
OFF-Bill And Account Collectors 64.73%
PRT-Bailiffs, Correctional Officers, And Jailers 64.50%
OFF-Loan Interviewers And Clerks 63.95%
OFF-Payroll And Timekeeping Clerks 63.76%
CON-Painters And Paperhangers 63.64%
OFF-Billing And Posting Clerks 63.14%
PRS-Childcare Workers 62.87%
HLS-Dental Assistants 62.61%
OFF-Credit Authorizers, Checkers, And Clerks 62.50%
CLN-Maids And Housekeeping Cleaners 62.43%
OFF-Postal Service Mail Sorters, Processors, And Processing 62.07%
PRD-Packaging And Filling Machine Operators And Tenders 61.96%
TRN-Packers And Packagers, Hand 61.44%
OFF-Court, Municipal, And License Clerks 61.29%
EDU-Teacher Assistants 61.28%
CLN-Janitors And Building Cleaners 61.19%
TRN-Cleaners Of Vehicles And Equipment 61.18%
FFF-Graders And Sorters, Agricultural Products 61.11%
PRD-Pressers, Textile, Garment, And Related Materials 61.11%
OFF-New Accounts Clerks 60.87%
OFF-Couriers And Messengers 60.87%
CMS-Social And Human Service Assistants 60.75%
MED-Respiratory Therapists 60.56%
PRD-First-Line Supervisors Of Production And Operating 60.48%
PRD-Butchers And Other Meat, Poultry, And Fish Processing 60.40%
ENT-Photographers 60.17%
OFF-Tellers 60.00%
BUS-Cost Estimators 60.00%
FIN-Appraisers And Assessors Of Real Estate 60.00%
PRD-Miscellaneous Assemblers And Fabricators 59.88%
MED-Diagnostic Related Technologists And Technicians 59.82%
PRS-Hairdressers, Hairstylists, And Cosmetologists 59.68%
HLS-Physical Therapist Assistants And Aides 59.38%
CLN-First-Line Supervisors Of Housekeeping And Janitorial 59.21%
CMS-Directors, Religious Activities And Education 59.18%
SAL-Cashiers 59.17%
MED-Radiation Therapists 59.09%
PRD-Painting Workers 59.09%
PRS-Personal Care Aides 58.90%
Unemployed And Last Worked 5 Years Ago Or Earlier Or Never 58.70%
OFF-Bookkeeping, Accounting, And Auditing Clerks 58.39%
PRD-Laundry And Dry-Cleaning Workers 58.26%
PRD-Electrical, Electronics, And Electromechanical 58.18%
MGR-Farmers, Ranchers, And Other Agricultural Managers 58.02%
OFF-Eligibility Interviewers, Government Programs 58.00%
MED-Registered Nurses 57.74%
PRS-Barbers 57.69%
EAT-Cooks 57.53%
PRD-Inspectors, Testers, Sorters, Samplers, And Weighers 57.45%
OFF-Secretaries And Administrative Assistants 57.36%
HLS-Phlebotomists 57.23%
SAL-Insurance Sales Agents 57.18%
PRD-Bakers 57.14%
EDU-Preschool And Kindergarten Teachers 57.07%
OFF-Shipping, Receiving, And Traffic Clerks 56.81%
MED-Dental Hygienists 56.52%
EAT-Food Servers, Nonrestaurant 56.25%
OFF-Telephone Operators 56.25%
OFF-Computer Operators 56.25%
OFF-Dispatchers 56.04%
HLS-Medical Transcriptionists 55.88%
CMS-Clergy 55.81%
PRD-Food Batchmakers 55.81%
OFF-Insurance Claims And Policy Processing Clerks 55.60%
BUS-Claims Adjusters, Appraisers, Examiners, And 55.51%
MED-Medical Records And Health Information Technicians 55.42%
OFF-Word Processors And Typists 55.38%
PRT-Security Guards And Gaming Surveillance Officers 54.95%
OFF-Receptionists And Information Clerks 54.83%
OFF-Data Entry Keyers 54.81%
OFF-Stock Clerks And Order Fillers 54.78%
EAT-Miscellaneous Food Preparation And Serving Related 54.63%
PRD-Cutting Workers 54.55%
MIL-Military, Rank Not Specified ** 54.55%
TRN-Supervisors Of Transportation And Material Moving 54.55%
FIN-Credit Counselors And Loan Officers 54.51%
CMS-Probation Officers And Correctional Treatment 54.29%
PRD-Miscellaneous Production Workers, Including Semiconductor 54.16%
ENT-Miscellaneous Media And Communication Workers 54.05%
SCI-Agricultural And Food Science Technicians 53.85%
PRD-Sewing Machine Operators 53.78%
PRS-Gaming Services Workers 53.75%
HLS-Healthcare Support Workers, All Other, Including 53.69%
TRN-Driver Sales Workers And Truck Drivers 53.62%
OFF-Production, Planning, And Expediting Clerks 53.31%
OFF-Information And Record Clerks, All Other 53.27%
PRD-Medical, Dental, And Ophthalmic Laboratory Technicians 53.23%
TRN-Laborers And Freight, Stock, And Material Movers, Hand 53.14%
FIN-Credit Analysts 53.13%
OFF-Customer Service Representatives 53.06%
MED-Opticians, Dispensing 53.03%
PRD-Printing Press Operators 52.94%
PRD-Welding, Soldering, And Brazing Workers 52.94%
EAT-First_Line Supervisors Of Food Preparation And Serving 52.81%
EAT-Counter Attendants, Cafeteria, Food Concession, And 52.69%
MGR-Food Service Managers 52.37%
MIL-First-Line Enlisted Military Supervisors 52.17%
PRD-Photographic Process Workers And Processing Machine 52.00%
EAT-Hosts And Hostesses, Restaurant, Lounge, And Coffee Shop 51.95%
EDU-Elementary And Middle School Teachers 51.79%
SAL-Counter And Rental Clerks 51.79%
MGR-Property, Real Estate, And Community Association 51.75%
EAT-Combined Food Preparation And Serving Workers, 51.59%
OFF-Interviewers, Except Eligibility And Loan 51.48%
SAL-Real Estate Brokers And Sales Agents 51.40%
EAT-Food Preparation Workers 51.31%
OFF-Human Resources Assistants, Except Payroll And 51.19%
OFF-Office Clerks, General 51.17%
OFF-File Clerks 50.52%
OFF-First-Line Supervisors Of Office And Administrative 50.31%
BUS-Purchasing Agents, Except Wholesale, Retail, And Farm 50.30%
PRT-Lifeguards And Other Recreational, And All Other 50.00%
EAT-Dishwashers 50.00%
OFF-Switchboard Operators, Including Answering Service 50.00%
HLS-Occupational Therapy Assistants And Aides 50.00%
TRN-Industrial Truck And Tractor Operators 50.00%
SAL-First-Line Supervisors Of Retail Sales Workers 49.96%
PRS-Miscellaneous Personal Appearance Workers 49.51%
SAL-Models, Demonstrators, And Product Promoters 49.41%
OFF-Financial Clerks, All Other 49.38%
EAT-Waiters And Waitresses 49.36%
OFF-Hotel, Motel, And Resort Desk Clerks 49.19%
MED-Speech-Language Pathologists 49.16%
HLS-Pharmacy Aides 48.98%
MED-Miscellaneous Health Technologists And Technicians 48.78%
HLS-Veterinary Assistants And Laboratory Animal Caretakers 48.68%
MGR-Lodging Managers 48.45%
OFF-Office Machine Operators, Except Computer 48.28%
MED-Health Practitioner Support Technologists And 48.25%
SAL-Retail Salespersons 48.10%
MGR-Financial Managers 47.92%
RPR-Miscellaneous Installation, Maintenance, And Repair 47.83%
CMM-Database Administrators 47.76%
FIN-Budget Analysts 47.73%
MED-Clinical Laboratory Technologists And Technicians 47.66%
SAL-Travel Agents 47.62%
CLN-Grounds Maintenance Workers 47.52%
ENG-Drafters 47.27%
EDU-Special Education Teachers 47.26%
TRN-Automotive And Watercraft Service Attendants 47.22%
FIN-Accountants And Auditors 47.12%
CMM-Computer Programmers 47.11%
MED-Nurse Practitioners, And Nurse Midwives 46.95%
FIN-Tax Examiners And Collectors, And Revenue Agents 46.88%
OFF-Miscellaneous Office And Administrative Support 46.86%
CON-Construction Laborers 46.75%
FIN-Insurance Underwriters 46.59%
CMM-Computer Occupations, All Other 46.51%
SAL-Securities, Commodities, And Financial Services Sales 46.48%
PRS-First-Line Supervisors Of Personal Service Workers 46.46%
FIN-Financial Specialists, All Other 46.43%
PRT-Detectives And Criminal Investigators 46.30%
MGR-Medical And Health Services Managers 46.25%
OFF-Reservation And Transportation Ticket Agents And Travel 46.22%
SAL-Telemarketers 46.10%
PRS-Recreation And Fitness Workers 45.97%
MED-Emergency Medical Technicians And Paramedics 45.86%
MED-Audiologists 45.83%
MGR-Human Resources Managers 45.68%
MGR-Administrative Services Managers 45.65%
TRN-Taxi Drivers And Chauffeurs 45.31%
ENT-Technical Writers 45.16%
SAL-First-Line Supervisors Of Non-Retail Sales Workers 45.15%
CMS-Social Workers 45.06%
ENG-Engineering Technicians, Except Drafters 44.57%
HLS-Massage Therapists 44.53%
EDU-Secondary School Teachers 44.46%
OFF-Correspondence Clerks And Order Clerks 44.09%
MGR-Education Administrators 44.07%
CMM-Software Developers, Applications And Systems Software 43.98%
ENT-Entertainers And Performers, Sports And Related 43.90%
SCI-Agricultural And Food Scientists 43.48%
OFF-Statistical Assistants 43.48%
PRS-Tour And Travel Guides 42.86%
BUS-Training And Development Specialists 42.48%
LGL-Miscellaneous Legal Support Workers 42.47%
SAL-Sales And Related Workers, All Other 42.47%
EDU-Other Teachers And Instructors 42.33%
PRS-Miscellaneous Entertainment Attendants And Related 42.27%
LGL-Paralegals And Legal Assistants 42.14%
MED-Chiropractors 42.11%
EDU-Other Education, Training, And Library Workers 41.94%
MED-Physical Therapists 41.75%
CMM-Network And Computer Systems Administrators 41.67%
CMM-Computer Support Specialists 41.55%
MED-Dietitians And Nutritionists 41.45%
MED-Physician Assistants 41.40%
MED-Other Therapists, Including Exercise Physiologists 40.98%
BUS-Human Resources Workers 40.86%
MGR-Transportation, Storage, And Distribution Managers 40.82%
CMS-Counselors 40.51%
PRS-First-Line Supervisors Of Gaming Workers 40.00%
SAL-Sales Representatives, Services, All Other 39.94%
SAL-Sales Representatives, Wholesale And Manufacturing 39.41%
MGR-Miscellaneous Managers, Including Funeral Service 39.21%
ENG-Civil Engineers 39.18%
PRT-Police Officers 38.95%
EAT-Bartenders 38.91%
BUS-Compensation, Benefits, And Job Analysis Specialists 38.89%
BUS-Business Operations Specialists, All Other 38.61%
MED-Occupational Therapists 38.54%
MGR-General And Operations Managers 38.12%
MED-Nurse Anesthetists 37.93%
PRS-Personal Care And Service Workers, All Other 37.80%
ENG-Industrial Engineers, Including Health And Safety 37.50%
BUS-Wholesale And Retail Buyers, Except Farm Products 37.50%
SAL-Advertising Sales Agents 37.28%
PRS-Residential Advisors 37.14%
MGR-Chief Executives And Legislators 36.99%
CMM-Operations Research Analysts 36.97%
MED-Pharmacists 36.96%
RPR-Maintenance And Repair Workers, General 36.67%
PRT-Firefighters 36.67%
PRT-Transportation Security Screeners 36.36%
MGR-Industrial Production Managers 36.36%
BUS-Compliance Officers 36.36%
ENT-Athletes, Coaches, Umpires, And Related Workers 36.36%
ENT-Designers 36.06%
BUS-Logisticians 35.94%
BUS-Meeting, Convention, And Event Planners 35.75%
MGR-Social And Community Service Managers 35.60%
CMS-Miscellaneous Community And Social Service Specialists, 35.25%
MGR-Purchasing Managers 35.24%
MED-Dentists 35.05%
EAT-Chefs And Head Cooks 35.04%
BUS-Fundraisers 34.75%
SCI-Chemical Technicians 34.38%
CMM-Web Developers 34.16%
ENG-Electrical And Electronics Engineers 34.09%
MGR-Construction Managers 34.00%
EDU-Librarians 33.96%
ENT-Musicians, Singers, And Related Workers 33.33%
ENT-Dancers And Choreographers 33.33%
ENG-Miscellaneous Engineers, Including Nuclear Engineers 33.12%
BUS-Management Analysts 33.01%
CMM-Computer Systems Analysts 32.67%
ENG-Aerospace Engineers 32.35%
PRS-Nonfarm Animal Caretakers 32.32%
SCI-Environmental Scientists And Geoscientists 32.14%
FIN-Financial Analysts 31.96%
ENT-Editors 31.85%
TRN-Air Traffic Controllers And Airfield Operations 31.82%
CON-Carpenters 31.58%
BUS-Market Research Analysts And Marketing Specialists 31.46%
EDU-Library Technicians 31.03%
MGR-Computer And Information Systems Managers 30.77%
MGR-Marketing And Sales Managers 30.51%
ENG-Architects, Except Naval 30.39%
CMM-Miscellaneous Mathematical Science Occupations, 30.16%
BUS-Agents And Business Managers Of Artists, Performers, 30.00%
MGR-Public Relations And Fundraising Managers 30.00%
FIN-Personal Financial Advisors 29.41%
ENT-Announcers 29.17%
PRD-Jewelers And Precious Stone And Metal Workers 29.17%
SCI-Psychologists 29.05%
SCI-Chemists And Materials Scientists 29.03%
RPR-Computer, Automated Teller, And Office Machine Repairers 28.57%
ENT-Artists And Related Workers 28.03%
TRN-Refuse And Recyclable Material Collectors 28.00%
ENT-Writers And Authors 27.78%
EDU-Postsecondary Teachers 26.77%
OFF-Library Assistants, Clerical 26.42%
SCI-Miscellaneous Life, Physical, And Social Science 26.29%
MED-Other Healthcare Practitioners And Technical 25.93%
LGL-Lawyers, And Judges, Magistrates, And Other Judicial 25.36%
SCI-Medical Scientists, And Life Scientists, All Other 25.12%
ENG-Mechanical Engineers 25.00%
ENT-Television, Video, And Motion Picture Camera Operators 25.00%
ENT-Public Relations Specialists 24.73%
MED-Optometrists 24.39%
SCI-Miscellaneous Social Scientists, Including Survey 23.94%
SCI-Biological Technicians 23.81%
TRN-Flight Attendants 23.29%
PRS-Baggage Porters, Bellhops, And Concierges 23.08%
MED-Physicians And Surgeons 23.08%
MGR-Advertising And Promotions Managers 22.22%
ENT-News Analysts, Reporters And Correspondents 22.22%
SCI-Physical Scientists, All Other 21.89%
SCI-Urban And Regional Planners 21.74%
MED-Veterinarians 21.49%
SCI-Biological Scientists 20.88%
EDU-Archivists, Curators, And Museum Technicians 20.00%
PRS-Animal Trainers 19.44%
MGR-Training And Development Managers 18.75%
ENT-Actors 16.67%
ENT-Producers And Directors 14.18%
LGL-Judicial Law Clerks 12.82%
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