The impact of women's relative earnings and gender equity on the recuperation of fertility among older couples in Britain

Ann M. Berrington, University of Southampton
Serena Pattaro, University of Southampton

Around one in five women in Britain currently reaching the end of their childbearing years remains childless. Whilst much previous research has highlighted the risk factors for early childbearing, relative little is known in Britain about the factors associated with the successful recuperation of fertility at later ages. This paper uses a couple approach to investigate how entry into parenthood at later ages depends on the man’s and woman’s relative resources and gender role equity. We focus on men and women in their thirties since it is at this age that we see significant recuperation of childbearing in Britain following postponement. The research uses detailed life course data from the 1970 Birth Cohort Study. Childless couples interviewed at age 30 are followed up at ages 34 and 38. At age 30, information was collected about the individual and their partner’s levels of education, employment circumstances, occupation and levels of pay. In addition, the respondent provided data on the division of domestic tasks within the household, their own gender role orientation and their intentions for having children. We use event history analysis to model the timing of first birth as a function of these fixed and time-varying factors. Hence we are able to identify factors associated with the recuperation of fertility and the relative importance of individual and couple level characteristics. We control for the selection into our sample of high-resource couples who remain without a child at age 30. We add to the existing literature in a number of ways: 1) by incorporating recent debates concerning the importance of gender equity on fertility into a broader couple-focused approach, 2) by comparing the fertility outcomes for both men and women and 3) by taking into account a detailed set of fixed and time-varying socio-economic determinants and anticipatory factors.

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Presented in Session 25: Household income, women's wages and fertility

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