What Are the Consequences of Fertility Postponement for Women’s Completed Family Size?

Juliet A. Stone, University of Southampton
Ann M. Berrington, University of Southampton
Eva Beaujouan, Wittgenstein Centre (IIASA, VID/ÖAW, WU)

Later ages at first birth are likely to be associated with smaller completed family sizes due to declining fecundibility, cultural age deadlines, and adjustment of fertility intentions . This paper provides new insights into the implications of postponement for three dimensions of fertility: completed family size; overall parity progression; and the pace of subsequent childbearing. We analyse retrospective fertility histories from 44,351 British women born between 1940 and 1969. We find a strong, negative association between age at first birth and completed family size. Surprisingly, this relationship has remained virtually unchanged for women who were born 30 years apart, suggesting that women in recent cohorts are no more likely to recuperate their fertility. Once women have entered motherhood at a given age, subsequent rates of childbearing are remarkably similar across cohorts and educational groups. We conclude that the smaller completed family sizes of degree-educated mothers is largely due to postponement.

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 Presented in Session 91. Variability in Reproduction