• Article

Age, Fertility Expectations and Plans for Employment

Fertility, female labor force participation, and the relationship between them are key subjects in a number of theoretical and applied areas of sociology. Because sex role norms and the widespread use of birth control devices have given American women much control over their fertility and substantial choice in their labor force activity (or inactivity), understanding the development and interrelationship of labor force participation plans and fertility expectations assumes great importance in understanding actual labor force participation and actual fertility. As a step toward understanding this development, we describe and attempt to explain the effect of women's age on the relationship between their labor force participation plans and their fertility expectations. Using data from a national sample of young women aged 19 to 29 in 1973 (N = 3,589), we find a strong, linear relationship (r = -.96) between women's age and the effect of their plans for labor force participation on the number of children that they expect to bear in their lifetime. An explanation of this finding (called the Learning Hypothesis) is advanced which survives tests against several plausible alternative hypotheses. Policy implications and productive paths for future research are discussed


Stolzenberg, R. M., & Waite, L. J. (1977). Age, Fertility Expectations and Plans for Employment. American Sociological Review, 42(5), 769-783.