The emerging positive educational gradient in fertility in Belgium: a multi-level regional analysis of a vanguard country

Jonas Wood, Universiteit Antwerpen
Sebastian Klüsener, Max-Planck Institute for Demographic Research
Karel Neels, Universiteit Antwerpen
Mikko Myrskylä, Max-Planck Institute for Demographic Research and London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)

There is growing evidence for substantial shifts in the human development-fertility relationship in some high developed parts of the world. This includes the emergence of a positive correlation between fertility and economic development among high developed countries and a decreasing negative educational gradient in fertility. Belgium seems to constitute a vanguard country in these trends. Despite being densely populated and highly developed, Belgium reports cohort fertility rates close to replacement level and positive associations between tertiary education and higher order childbearing. It has been argued, that these patterns might be related to Belgium’s role as a forerunner in implementing policies supporting the reconciliation of family and career goals. In order to improve our understanding of the emerging positive educational gradient in fertility in Belgium, this study relies on a unique combination of microdata covering all Belgian residents between 2002 and 2005 and information on economic conditions and social services at the municipality level. We assess how variation in the municipality-level conditions is related to fertility outcomes by education and birth order. First outcomes for second births show that especially the influence of being highly educated on birth transitions varies considerably across the 579 municipalities. Whereas highly educated mothers are twice as likely to progress to a second birth compared to their medium educated counterparts, municipality-specific effects range from no difference to a 250 per cent difference in second birth odds. Controlling for various individual-level characteristics, we show that a considerable part of the between-municipality variation in the educational gradient in second births can be related to economic conditions and social services at the municipality level. Whereas extensive social services positively correlate with second births for highly educated mothers, low educated mothers are found to be less likely to progress to a second child in more prosperous municipalities.

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 Presented in Session 94. Education and fertility 3