Education and fertility: a meta-analysis

Fabian Braesemann, Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien (WU)
Daniela Bellani, Universitat Pompeu Fabra
Maria Rita Testa, Wittgenstein Centre (IIASA, VID/ÖAW, WU)
Fabian Stephany, University of Cambridge and Wittgenstein Centre (IIASA, VID/ÖAW, WU)

The rapid spread of tertiary education as well as the parallel endemic low fertility have stimulated considerable interest among researches on the relationship between education and childbearing. However, studies that focus on more recent women’s cohorts do not find any clear relation between women’s educational level and fertility (intentions and realization). In order to systematize these conclusions, we summarize empirical research on the changing relationship between education and childlessness across countries and women’s birth cohorts. The first stage of this study involves analyzing where and when there has been a weakening of the educational gradient over time. Moreover we assess important societal factors that contribute to the variation of the educational gradient of childlessness over time and space. In particular, we focus our attention on key contextual variables that shape the relationship between women’s education and childbearing decisions. In order to conduct this study, we take advantage of meta-analysis systematizing about 85 publications and exploiting census data. In the second part of the study we examine to what extent macro-variables account for the variation of the link education childbearing across countries. Our results suggest that the change in educational gradient of childlessness is associated to educational expansion of tertiary level of education, to the increase of female labour market participation and to the diffusion of gender equity. Moreover, we do observe a reversal in the educational gradient of fertility quantum precisely in those countries that pioneered not only the demographic transition but also the transformation of women's roles.

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Presented in Session 40: Education and fertility 1