Working, Studying and Starting a Family
Over the course of the past few decades, women’s enrolment in post-secondary educational programmes has dramatically increased. The fertility implications have been well documented, but the studies generally assume that a student is only a student. Zsolt Spéder and Tamás Bartus sought to understand the impact double-status (studying part-time and working part-time at the same time) may have on the transition to motherhood. It turns out, their interest was well founded. They found the fertility implications of double-status women to be notable.
Previous research has found that participation in education postpones the transition to motherhood. This postponement has been attributed to social norms (“students should not have children”) and the high costs of having a child (students do not receive an adequate salary). However, this relationship has also been found to be mediated by different factors, such as field of study, marital status or socio-economic background. Up to now, though, little was known about the role of employment in fertility for women in school.
Using data from the Hungarian Generations and Gender Survey, Spéder and Bartus found that women who were both working and studying part-time had a greater chance of becoming pregnant than women who were only enrolled in education. The rate of first birth among women studying and working fell somewhere between that of full-time students and full-time employees, suggesting that the advantages of being employed—such as financial independence or confidence about future employment prospects—outweigh the drag of studying on women’s transition to motherhood.