When Is the Best Time for Pharmacists to Start a Family?

Female pharmacists looking to start a family should perhaps consider waiting until they're 30 to have their first child.

Female pharmacists looking to start a family should perhaps consider waiting until they’re 30 to have their first child.

New research from Washington University in St. Louis suggests that women who wait until they’re 30 years old to have a child minimize their lifetime career income losses. This finding holds true for both women who graduated from college and those who didn’t.

The researchers acknowledged that childbearing could cause career interruptions and income reductions for female workers. Previous research has shown that women without any children often earn more than their counterparts with children.

The study authors examined data spanning 1995 to 2009 and involving about 1.6 million women aged 25 to 60 years. They accessed information like work experience and birth statistics to assess how age at first birth affected lifetime earnings.

Through their research, the study authors uncovered lifetime labor income gains associated with having a first child at age 31 or older. These gains were 14% of average annual income for college-educated women and 50% for non-college-educated women.

In addition, women who have their first child at age 25 or younger tend to miss out on more than 2 years of annual labor income.

“Children do not kill careers, but the earlier children arrive, the more their mother’s income suffers,” said Raul Santaeulalia-Llopis, PhD, an assistant professor of economics at Washington University, in a press release. “There is a clear incentive for delaying.”

The researchers also suggested that women who have their first child after age 31 earn more over their career lifetimes than women who don’t have any children. Women with no college education who give birth after age 28 do see a loss of income in the short term, but they can catch up in terms of lifetime earnings with women who don’t have children.

Other findings from the PLOS ONE study included that women were having children a year later in 2009 than in 1995 (age 26.2 versus age 25.4). In addition, there were large increases between 1995 and 2009 in the number of women not having children. Also, college-educated women tended to have children later in life than women who didn’t graduate from college.

The researchers also found short-run loss in labor income, which they defined as the percentage difference between the salary earned 2 years before the age at first birth and the income earned at the age of first birth. For college-educated women, this range was 37% to 65%, and for non-college-educated women, it was 40% to 53%.

“Our findings highlight the importance of considering jointly fertility and career decisions when analyzing women labor market outcomes,” the researchers concluded.