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University of Iowa News Release

Sept. 15, 2003

Glass To Speak About Wealth-Infertility Paradox Sept. 20

While overpopulation remains a concern in many underdeveloped countries, some of the world's richest nations are facing the opposite problem -- birth rates so low that the population is not even being replaced, much less growing. This, coupled with advances in science and medicine that are increasing life expectancy, is creating a scenario in which a rapidly aging population could be left without an adequate working-age population to support it.

Jennifer Glass, professor of sociology in the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, will discuss the causes and implications of declining population in her presentation, "Oh Baby: Fertility Decline in the Richest Nations on Earth," at 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 20, in room 40 Schaeffer Hall. This lecture and discussion session is part of the college's annual Saturday Scholars series.

Perhaps paradoxically, the rich nations with the lowest fertility rates are those in which women traditionally do not work outside the home, while some of the highest fertility rates in the developed world are in countries like Norway and France where most adult women are employed. Glass attributes this to a national support system for employed mothers in these countries, which have laws mandating, among other things, extended paid maternity leave, family-friendly workplaces and reduced work hours for employed parents.

"It turns out that it's actually family-enhancing to encourage labor outside the home," Glass said. "People who know that they will be able to earn enough money to care for their children adequately without being chained to their offices are more likely to have children in the first place and to have more than one child."

Until the 20th century, families operated in some ways as economic systems, Glass said. Children assisted with household functions and, as they got older, worked in the family business and supported aging parents. Now that most families do not depend on their children to maintain their livelihood, it is more common for families to split apart, often leaving the mother to support the children on her own.

"We've seen a long term shift from men to women in terms of who pays for the kids," Glass said. "That's why it is crucial for mothers to have high quality, high paying jobs that still allow them to fulfill their roles as mothers."

Glass, who holds a joint appointment in the Department of Behavioral and Community Health in the College of Public Health came to the UI in 1994, after holding faculty appointments at the University of Southern California and the University of Notre Dame. As a graduate student she spent one year as a predoctoral trainee at the Center for Demography and Ecology, where she first discovered the fascinating cultural and economic dynamics underlying otherwise dry statistics on fertility, mortality, marriage and migration.

Since earning her doctorate in 1983, she has published extensively on mothers' employment careers and work-family dynamics. Most recently, she studied a group of employed mothers from before birth to their child's 7th birthday, with support from the National Science Foundation and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The results from that study are the first to document the size of the wage penalty mothers pay for using the work-family policies offered by their employers.

In a preview of her Sept. 20 presentation, Glass will be a guest on "Talk of Iowa," WSUI, AM-910, Thursday, Sept. 18, at 10 a.m.

Saturday Scholars was developed by Linda Maxson, dean of the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, gives members of the public a chance to hear about the latest teaching and research innovations by faculty members in the college. The sessions last about an hour, including a 20-30 minute presentation followed by time for questions. Refreshments are served. All presentations begin at 10 a.m. in room 40 Schaeffer Hall, the southeast building on the UI Pentacrest.

Upcoming lectures in the Saturday Scholars series include:

Oct. 4 "Media, Culture, and the Sexy Girl," Meenakshi Gigi Durham, associate professor of journalism and mass communication

Oct. 18 "Tandem Stories: Traveling Iceland By-cycle," Steve Thunder-McGuire, associate professor of art and art history; associate professor of curriculum and instruction, College of Education

Nov. 1 "Herbal Products: They're Organic But Are They Safe?" David Wiemer, professor and chair of chemistry

Nov. 15 "Maps and their Makers: Decidedly Deliberate Deceptions and Distortions," Marc Armstrong, professor and chair of geography

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires an accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in advance at 335-2610.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Mary Geraghty Kenyon, 319-384-0011,