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Women in Science: Lessons from the Baby Boom Applied Microeconomics Group Seminar

Speaker: Professor Petra Moser, NYU Stern School of Business and NBER

Abstract: How do children affect scientific productivity and promotions? We investigate this question using rich biographical data – linked with publications – for 83,000 American scientists in 1956. These data reveal that mothers have a unique life cycle pattern of productivity. Publications by mothers decline in their early 30s, around the birth of their first child, and recover roughly five years later in their late 30s. Mothers publish most in their early 40s while other scientists peak in their 30s. Event studies, which compare the effect of children on married men and women, show that children reduce the productivity of mothers but not fathers. Gender differences in the impact of children are particularly pronounced for academic couples. Differences in the timing of productivity have important implications for promotions. Just 27% of mothers who are academic scientists achieve tenure, compared with 48% of fathers and 46% of women without children. While publications buy other scientists peak around tenure, mothers publish more after tenure.

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