Remote work helped raise birth rates for wealthy, educated women

The expectation that women should have and do it all is as old as the shoulder pads on a blazer, but it looks like remote work may be allowing working women to do much more: the freedom to balance career and kids. And the flexibility is slightly better than Office.

The benefits of remote work for family building are revealed by a new analysis from the Economic Innovation Group, a bipartisan advocacy organization. Researchers looked at the family and fertility of 3,000 American women ages 18 to 44 from two waves of a survey, the Demographic Intelligence Family Survey, in 2022.

They found that the odds of becoming pregnant or trying to become pregnant were 16.7% for women working at least partially remotely and 13.7% for women not working remotely. Some commentators, like Elon Musk, worry too much for baby busts. Instead, remote working may be laying the seeds for a millennial parent-baby boom, fitting for the older generation that echoes the post-war boom that gave its boomer parents their surname.

According to a working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), 2021 could see the first major reversal in fertility rates since the Great Recession. The bump was most pronounced for women ages 30 to 34 and for college-educated women, both groups who had greater access to job security and remote work, which the NBER researchers suggest has contributed to childbearing. becomes easier.

This was a major reversal from the early years of the pandemic, when birth rates hit record lows, accelerating the pre-pandemic trend; The birth rate declined during the Great Recession and continued to stagnate due to several factors, chief among them unaffordable childcare. Birth rates are also falling because women are having children at later ages or less often than in earlier eras, explains Matt Breunig, attorney and founder of the progressive think tank People’s Policy Project.

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The authors of the EIG report, Lyman Stone and Adam Ozimek, strike a balanced tone: “The long-standing decline in fertility rates across the developed world makes it difficult to be optimistic about the future trajectory of births overall.” Yes, the rise of remote work is one factor helping to push in the other direction, at least in some subgroups of the population.

Women working remotely whose finances had improved significantly over the previous year were 10 percent more likely to become pregnant or trying to become pregnant than their non-remote counterparts. There was no difference between remote and non-remote female workers with stable or deteriorating financial situations.

“It is important to recognize that our measure of wealth is from women whose household finances became ‘much better’ in the past year, which can include women across the income spectrum,” explained the authors of the EIG paper. Luck, “However, while we did not examine this directly, remote work is more available to women with higher education levels and incomes. As a result, we would expect it to benefit higher income households more overall.

Remote work also has a greater impact on family planning for women who have already had children and are over the age of 35 (and even more so for those over the age of 39). “In other words, remote work may not necessarily drive women starting to have children, but it may help older women balance the competing demands of work and family,” the authors write in the report.

But it’s not just about the kids, it’s also about the marriage. Remotely unmarried workers (22%) are more likely than their in-office peers (15.7%) to be married in the next year. Researchers attribute this to high migration rates among remote workers, and speculate that remote work eliminates issues of geographic mobility or that one partner has to sacrifice their career for their partner’s due to location. All of this can lead to fewer difficulties in a relationship, and potentially pave the way for virtual workers to walk down the aisle.

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It could also be that without the bothersome commute, remote workers have an extra 72 minutes a day to spend with their partners and enhance their relationship, or more time to devote to their families. This certainly gives them more time to devote to childcare, the data show, which may also explain why they are more inclined to have children. Location flexibility is often combined with schedule flexibility, which is helpful for working parents. (Such a lack of autonomy for non-remote workers, combined with the ongoing childcare crisis, has been shown to drive most women out of the workforce.)

The women were also asked whether their dreams about what their family would look like corresponded to their reality, including whether they had the expected number of children. Women who had the option of working remotely were less likely to report feeling depressed or negative about their future.

A modern revival of the “working girl” could also take place from home, as working remotely could be a way for Melanie Griffith types, and women in general, to advance in the workforce.

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