Education and the timing of fertility

Karin Monstad, Carol Propper, Kjell G. Salvanes, Tue, 05/06/2008



Low fertility has become an issue of public concern as low population growth and higher dependency ratios due to aging populations threaten to strangle economic growth. While numerous studies have found evidence for a correlation between female education and fertility decisions, few have examined factors likely to influence these decisions. The authors of CEPR DP6816 study fertility in Norway and use an educational reform as an instrument to establish that the relationship is causal.

The major policy concern in Nordic countries is the increasing number of childless women and the fact that the younger cohorts of women are having fewer children. The authors exploit an educational reform which extended the mandatory years of schooling from 7 to 9 years to identify the casual effect of education on both completed fertility and its timing for women born between 1947 and 1958 in Norway. The relationship between the education of women and three fertility outcomes is examined: the timing of children, childlessness and the number of children. The data shows the expected correlation that women with more education are more often childless, have fewer children and postpone births.

Despite the statistically significant correlations, the authors do not find evidence of casual relationship between the length of education and completed fertility or childlessness when using the reform as an instrument for education. The main finding is that increased mandatory years of schooling lead to the postponement of births: there are fewer cases of teenage motherhood and more first births among women aged 35 to 40 years.

Summarised by CEPR staff

DP6816 Education and Fertility: Evidence from a Natural Experiment

Journalists are entitled to free DP downloads on request; please contact [email protected]. To learn more about subscribing to CEPR's Discussion Paper Series, please visit the CEPR website.


Topics:  Education

Tags:  education, causal effect, female fertility

CEPR Policy Research