More than just postponement: quantifying the contributions of education and unions to the fertility gap by simulating the reproductive life courses of Dutch women

Rolf Granholm , University of Groningen
Gert Stulp, University of Groningen
Anne H. Gauthier, Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute (NIDI)

Couples have fewer children than they intend to in Europe, resulting in a gap between intended family size and completed cohort fertility. This is largely because first-pregnancy attempts are postponed to older reproductive ages, due to expansion of higher education and less stable unions, among other things. Postponement of pregnancy to older reproductive ages makes successful pregnancy and birth more difficult due to age-related physiological constraints on fertility, but these constraints are rarely modelled. It is difficult to model how age, education, the timing of, and prevalence of union formation and -dissolution influence the fertility gap with statistical techniques commonly used in fertility research. We therefore constructed a microsimulation model with detailed information on union formation and the reproductive process to measure how much changes in education and union timing and -prevalence contribute to the fertility gap of Dutch women. Our model parameters were based on Generations and Gender Survey I and LISS panel data, complemented by other sources. We found that marriage, separation and re-partnering contributed more to the fertility gap than divorce, due to 70% of women marrying and late divorce. Contrary to expectations, even a substantial increase in the share of highly educated women barely increased the gap. Postponement of first cohabitation due to education was short enough for higher union stability to compensate for most of the difference in timing and prevalence of first cohabitation. The contribution to the gap increased with the length of postponement because of physiological constraints on fertility at higher reproductive ages.

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 Presented in Session 20. Fertility and Singlehood