Cohort changes in first birth recuperation rates by educational level in the United Kingdom

Dieter H. Demey, University of Southampton

Women’s educational level is strongly related to both quantum and tempo fertility. The changing educational composition of the population is therefore a key factor for understanding and explaining the precipitous decline observed throughout the industrialised world in total period fertility rates to below replacement level after the post-war baby-boom and the subsequent recovery in the second half of the first decade of the twenty-first century. In particular, the incomplete recuperation of delayed first births among the higher educated is probably a key factor in explaining the rising average age at first birth and the incidence of childlessness. However, on the basis of the main theories of fertility change, we would expect shifts in first birth recuperation rates by educational level over time, and in particular a narrowing of educational group differentials. The main aims of this study are to investigate the degree of recuperation of first births by educational level and to examine how this pattern has changed over time in the United Kingdom, a country characterised by relatively high period and cohort total fertility rates but also by one of the highest incidences of childlessness compared to the rest of Western Europe. Using data from the first wave of Understanding Society (USoc), this study investigates the degree of recuperation of first births as well as the pace of entering motherhood after leaving the educational system by educational level, and how these patterns have changed between cohorts (1930-1969).

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Presented in Poster Session 3