Using administrative data from Denmark (1995-2009) we find that maternal education significantly determines in vitro fertilization (IVF) success (live birth). Compared with high school dropouts, patients with a college (high school) degree have a 21% (13%) higher chance of attaining a live birth through IVF in the first cycle. Our explorations of the mechanisms underlying the education gradient rule out financial constraints, clinic characteristics, and medical conditions and our results are not driven by selection into IVF. Instead, we argue that the education gradient in IVF reflects educational disparities in IVF productivity (how well women follow the IVF procedure) and psychological stress (how they are affected by undertaking the treatments). We develop a dynamic model of women using IVF technology in which they differ in IVF productivity and the psychological cost associated with undergoing the treatment. In the model, women face a trade-off between a positive probability of succeeding in getting a child through IVF and the cost of psychological stress associated with undergoing the treatment. The estimated model sheds light on the importance of each of the factors in explaining the IVF educational gradient. These results are important because women’s career and fertility choices are likely to be influenced by the determinants of IVF success.
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