Volume 33 - Article 26 | Pages 733–764

Educational differences in timing and quantum of childbearing in Britain: A study of cohorts born 1940−1969

By Ann Berrington, Juliet Stone, Éva Beaujouan

Print this page  Facebook  Twitter

 

 
Date received:29 Aug 2014
Date published:06 Oct 2015
Word count:6900
Keywords:childlessness, cohort fertility, completed family size, educational differentials fertility, postponement of childbearing, recuperation of births
DOI:10.4054/DemRes.2015.33.26
 

Abstract

Background: Increased postponement of fertility, especially among higher-educated women, means it is important to know whether women recuperate births at older ages, but evidence for the UK is lacking. The extent to which the timing and quantum of mothers’ fertility underlie the strong educational gradient in completed family size is also unclear.

Objective: We investigate the relative contributions of childlessness, timing, and quantum to educational differences in completed fertility within cohorts born between 1940 and 1969.

Methods: We analyse retrospective fertility histories from 44,351 women, born 1940-1969, interviewed in the British General Household Survey (1979-2009) and the UK Household Longitudinal Study (2009-2010). After describing educational differences in the timing of first birth and parity distributions, we quantify the relative contributions of childlessness, delayed entry into motherhood, and fertility rates conditional upon age at entry into motherhood, to educational differences in completed family size.

Results: Within each cohort, the educational gradient in completed family size is explained, in demographic accounting terms, almost entirely by educational differences in the proportions remaining childless and the age distribution of mothers at entry into motherhood. Conditional upon age at entry into motherhood, subsequent fertility rates are similar across educational groups and across cohorts.

Conclusions: Unlike for some other European countries, the postponement of motherhood to later ages in Britain has not resulted in a significant increase in childbearing among more-educated women who enter motherhood at later ages. The stability of aggregate measures of completed fertility in Britain is not the result of a straightforward process of postponement followed by recuperation.

Author's Affiliation

Ann Berrington - University of Southampton, United Kingdom [Email]
Juliet Stone - University of Southampton, United Kingdom [Email]
Éva Beaujouan - Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Global Human Capital (IIASA, VID/ÖAW, WU), Austria [Email]

Other articles by the same author/authors in Demographic Research

» Cross-national differences in women's repartnering behaviour in Europe: The role of individual demographic characteristics
Volume 37 - Article 8

» The fertility of recent migrants to England and Wales
Volume 34 - Article 36

» Commitment and the changing sequence of cohabitation, childbearing, and marriage: Insights from qualitative research in the UK
Volume 33 - Article 12

» Towards a new understanding of cohabitation: Insights from focus group research across Europe and Australia
Volume 31 - Article 34

» The changing determinants of UK young adults' living arrangements
Volume 25 - Article 20

» Neither single, nor in a couple. A study of living apart together in France
Volume 21 - Article 4

Most recent similar articles in Demographic Research

» Fertility of Turkish and Moroccan women in the Netherlands: Adjustment to native level within one generation
Volume 19 - Article 33    | Keywords: childlessness, cohort fertility

» Childlessness and fertility by couples' educational gender (in)equality in Austria, Bulgaria, and France
Volume 37 - Article 12    | Keywords: childlessness

» Evolution of the shape of the fertility curve: Why might some countries develop a bimodal curve?
Volume 37 - Article 11    | Keywords: cohort fertility

» From never partnered to serial cohabitors: Union trajectories to childlessness
Volume 36 - Article 55    | Keywords: childlessness

» Europe-wide fertility trends since the 1990s: Turning the corner from declining first birth rates
Volume 32 - Article 21    | Keywords: childlessness