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Few College Women Win Career, Family

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NOT many female college graduates are ''having it all.'' Only 13 to 17 percent of women who got degrees around 1972 and were born around 1950 are succeeding in the often-trumpeted goal of having both a career and a family.

Among those who have had a successful career, as indicated by income level, nearly 50 percent were childless. Some 17 percent of these were disappointed with having no children.

''Career still entails large costs,'' says Harvard University economist Claudia Goldin. She has written a National Bureau of Economic Research paper giving these statistics on how well female college graduates have managed to overcome the obstacles they face in combining career and family. Its results are not sunny.

The problem is no longer that women are less educated, says Ms. Goldin. Slightly more women than men attend college nowadays, getting educations about equal to those received by men. More women continue in professional and graduate schools than ever before. Women are given a fairer shake at rising up the corporate ladder. Yet, most of the generation of college women coming close to the end of their child-bearing years are not doing as well as men in the workplace.

Why? Goldin suspects it has much to do with inequality of what goes on in their own homes. Women, she says, are still doing more than their share of household chores and, after a child is born, they become the primary care givers. This gives women less time and energy to devote to their jobs. Men, she notes, talk of looking after their children as ''baby sitting,'' thinking of it as a short task. Women don't use that term.

Goldin looks at the economic fates of five different cohorts, or generations, of female graduates.

The first, a relatively small group graduating around 1910, usually faced a stark choice of family or career. Career generally meant teaching. College men in this generation married and had families at about the same rate as men without higher education. But more than 50 percent of college-graduate women in this cohort either did not marry or, if they did so, did not have children.


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