Will one replace two? Trends in parity distribution across education in Europe

Zuzanna Brzozowska, Vienna Institute of Demography and Warsaw School of Economics
Eva Beaujouan, Wittgenstein Centre (IIASA, VID/ÖAW, WU)
Kryštof Zeman, Wittgenstein Centre (IIASA, VID/ÖAW, WU) and Vienna Institute of Demography

The relationship between education and the transition to first, second and third child has been thoroughly explored in the low-fertility context from a micro-level perspective. We believe, however, that an analysis of trends in parity distribution and progression ratios by birth cohort and education is necessary to fully understand the extent and sequence of long-term fertility changes. In this paper we focus on how the dominance of the two-child family has been changing after the post-war Baby Boom period in Western and Eastern Europe and across educational strata. For 16 countries we give an overview of trends in parity distribution and study how changes in the share of two-child families have been linked to changes in childlessness, the share of women with one child, transition rates from first to second child and from second to third child, and the share of families with three or more children. Using census and large-scale survey data for women born between 1916 and 1970, we show that in all countries the share of two-child families kept increasing until the late 1950s cohorts when it started falling. When broken down by education, the figures rose universally until the 1940s cohorts. Then the positive educational gradient in the East (seen already before) became steeper as the values among the low educated levelled off or started declining. In the West, where the share of two-child families had been equally spread across the board, a negative educational gradient appeared in three countries, namely in Austria, Italy and Switzerland. The results support our supposition regarding the reasons for this development: in the East the low educated progressed more often to third birth, while in the three Western countries highly educated women became more inclined to have one child or to remain childless.

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Presented in Session 94: Education and fertility 3