Trends in age at first union and first child in Latin America: stability across more educated cohorts

Elizabeth Florez Paredes, Centre d’Estudis Demogràfics (CED), UAB
Albert Esteve, Centre d’Estudis Demogràfics (CED), UAB

In this article we document trends in age at first sexual inter-course, first conjugal union and first child for cohorts of women born in 12 Latin American countries between 1940 and 1980. We examine the relationship between years of schooling and age at first sex, first union and first child to shed light on the following paradox: if years of schooling delay union formation and childbearing, why more educated cohorts do not form unions and have children at later ages compared to less educated ones? Logistic regression results show that the expected delays in first sexual inter-course, union formation and childbearing due to educational expansion have been offset by changes in behavior within educational groups over time. At each educational level women born in the 1980s have been forming unions and having children earlier than women with analogous years of schooling born 40 years before. These results question the automatic impact of education and stress the importance of the social and cultural context in which educational expansion is taking place. This paper shows that the relative position of women in the education system is more important than the absolute number of years of accumulated schooling. The number of desired children has remained stable over this period, with no significant differences according to education level; contraception use, even at young ages, has grown in this period.

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Presented in Session 94: Education and fertility 3