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Laboratory

Fertility and Well-Being

Detailed description

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The early 21st century presents us with vast variation in fertility patterns around the globe. However, we also witness a number of regularities across many human societies. Fertility postponement is occurring in high-income as well as in many middle- and low-income countries. In most high-income countries, the era of low or lowest-low fertility seems to have come to an end, but there is substantial variation in how populations have departed from this era. Many societies are facing social polarization that affects family formation and fertility differentials by social status. At the same time, the long-standing negative relationship between fertility and development seems to be subject to shifts. At high levels of development, we witness signs of attenuation or reversal of this relationship. Males are increasingly involved in childrearing in some parts of the world, though gender questions remain an issue where perceptions vary widely across global societies.

Research in the Laboratory of Fertility and Well-Being focuses on improving our understanding of the determinants and consequences of contemporary fertility trends. A key focus is on exploring the variety of socioeconomic and developmental conditions that potentially allow contemporary societies to reach fertility levels close to replacement levels. Our main activities are informed by research on specific subtopics, including investigations of how economic uncertainty and subjective well-being affect fertility decisions. Tendencies towards increasing social polarization within societies seem to particularly affect the lower social strata. Well-being goes beyond having access to economic necessities, and whether well-being is affected by parenthood depends not only on individual-level characteristics, but also on perceptions of parenthood and childlessness in the social surrounding.

Increasing uncertainty and new educational and professional opportunities have been key factors in the increase in maternal and paternal ages at birth. This process of fertility postponement has given rise to concerns about the individual- and the population-level health effects that are associated with older parents. We aim to distinguish the separate contributions of parental biological aging, resource accumulation, and changing period conditions to the relationship between parental age and child outcomes in order to improve our understanding of the population-level impact of the changing parental-age distribution.

The observed tendencies toward the greater involvement of males in childrearing require a stronger focus on fertility trends among males and couple constellations. One research focus in this area is thus to improve the global data infrastructure on male fertility by contributing methodological advancements to account for the challenge that vital registration records for fathers are often much less complete than records for mothers.

Throughout the research areas, we place a strong emphasis on population-level trends and micro-macro mechanisms driving these macro developments. The enhanced knowledge about fertility trajectories enables us to improve projections of future fertility trends, an area to which we contribute with methodological advancements.

 

Selected Publications

GOISIS, A.; SCHNEIDER, D.; MYRSKYLÄ, M.: "The reversing association between advanced maternal age and child cognitive development: Evidence from three UK birth cohorts." Forthcoming, International Journal of Epidemiology (2017)

BARCLAY, K.; MYRSKYLÄ, M.:
Advanced maternal age and offspring outcomes: causal effects and countervailing period trends
Population and Development Review (2016).

MYRSKYLÄ, M.; MARGOLIS, R.:
Happiness: before and after the kids
Demography 51:5, 1843-1866 (2014).

MYRSKYLÄ, M.; GOLDSTEIN, J. R.; CHENG, Y. A.:
New cohort fertility forecasts for the developed world: rises, falls, and reversals
Population and Development Review 39:1, 31-56 (2013).

MYRSKYLÄ, M.; KOHLER, H.-P.; BILLARI, F. C.:
Advances in development reverse fertility declines
Nature 460:7256, 741-743 (2009).

More Information

© David Dieschburg / photocase.com

APRIL 11, 2016 | PRESS RELEASE
Children of Older Mothers do better
Children of older mothers are healthier, taller and obtain more education than the children of younger mothers. The reason is that in industrialized countries educational opportunities are increasing, and people are getting healthier by the year. In other words, it pays off to be born later. more

 

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Phone +49 (0)381 2081-118
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Phone +49 (0)381 2081-207
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Phone +49 (0)381 2081-190

 

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