Does family background influence educational differences in Finnish women’s completed fertility?

Jessica Nisén, University of Helsinki
Mikko Myrskylä, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research
Karri Silventoinen, University of Helsinki
Pekka Martikainen, University of Helsinki

The role of family background for women’s educational differences in fertility has been discussed but still remains unclear. Preferences towards having children, educational attainment, and occupational career may be influenced by characteristics that are clustered in the families of origin. This study explored the role of family background for educational level differences in Finnish women’s completed fertility. The data consisted of 35,222 women born in 1940–1950 who were living in households sampled (10%) from the Finnish Census of Population in 1950 with an extensive register follow-up until 2009. Adjustment of measured socio-demographic family background characteristics and family fixed effects were employed to study the effect of family background on the association between educational level and the completed number of children. Having any children and the number of children beyond the first one were analyzed as secondary outcomes. Analysis methods were Poisson and logistic regression. The level of education was categorized as basic, lower secondary, upper secondary, and tertiary level of education. As expected a negative association between the level of education and the completed number of children was found: year of birth -adjusted relative risk (RR) with 95% confidence interval (CI) of the tertiary educated was 0.89 95%CI 0.87–0.91 as compared to the basic educated. Adjusting for parental education and occupational status of the family head moderately attenuated the association (tertiary educated: RR 0.91 95%CI 0.89–0.94). In the fixed effects model no statistically significant association between the two variables was found (tertiary educated: RR 0.98 95%CI 0.92–1.05), but the sample selection in the analysis called for cautiousness of interpretation. All in all family background seemed to have a moderate contribution to educational differences in Finnish women’s completed fertility, the larger part of the association being caused by other reasons than family background.

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Presented in Session 92: Education and fertility