September 29, 2014 / 8:31 PM / 5 years ago

Women who have been unemployed have fewer kids: U.S. study

A woman browses job openings at a job fair in Los Angeles, California, October 12, 2010. U.S. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

BOSTON (Reuters) - Women who were unemployed in their youth tend to have fewer children into middle-age than women who worked, according to a U.S. study released on Monday.

Researchers at Princeton University used more than 140 million U.S. birth records to track groups of women and found that those with higher unemployment rates in their early twenties had fewer babies.

Previous studies have suggested unemployment has a short-term impact on women’s fertility as they may not have the financial resources to support their children.

“A one percentage point increase in the average unemployment rate experienced between the ages of 20 and 24 reduces the short-run fertility of women in this age range by six conceptions per 1,000 women,” according to the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

It added that the long-run effect was even greater: when the same women reached age 40 the one percentage point increase in the unemployment rate experienced at ages 20–24 lead to an overall loss of 14.2 conceptions.

“This larger long-term effect is driven largely by women who remain childless,” it said.

The study pointed out that previous research had discovered the short-term correlation between unemployment and fertility, but that none had yet tested the longer-run effects.

“Scholars have been examining the relationship between fertility and unemployment for more than a century... but it is not known whether these negative effects persist, because women simply may postpone childbearing to better economic times,” the study said.

Reporting by Richard Valdmanis; editing by Andrew Hay

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