Fertility and Well-Being

Detailed description

© kallejipp / photocase.com

Two key trends characterize the change in fertility behavior that took place over the 20th and early 21st centuries in high-income countries: women and couples are having far fewer children, and at much older ages than before. The focus of the work being done by the laboratory of Fertility and Well-being is on gaining an understanding of the determinants and the consequences of low and late fertility in contemporary populations.

As maternal and paternal ages at birth are increasing across the developed world, concerns are being raised about the individual- and the population-level health effects of fertility postponement on the offspring. We analyze how parental age is associated with the individual-level outcomes of children, which mechanisms might be responsible for these associations, and whether these relationships are causal. We aim to seek to distinguish the separate contributions of parental biological aging, resource accumulation, and the changing period conditions to the relationship between parental age and child outcomes. Moreover, we analyze the population-level impact of the changing parental-age distribution on the offspring´s health and other outcomes.

In addition to affecting the individual offspring, fertility postponement suppresses overall period fertility levels. It is well-known that period fertility measures do not reflect the experiences of any real cohort of women. In order to understand how many children real cohorts of women are having, a cohort perspective is needed. But in many cases the cohorts of interest are too young to have completed their childbearing. For example, how many children will women born in the year 1980 have over their lifetime? We develop new methods for forecasting cohort fertility from incomplete data. We consider a wide range of approaches that vary in terms of complexity and data demands. These approaches include the extrapolation of past trends, stochastic diffusion models, and Bayesian modeling. We aim to incorporate into our modeling approaches that take into account information on socioeconomic factors which are known to influence fertility: for example, the overall levels of socioeconomic development and of gender equality may be important determinants of whether declining fertility trends start to recover.

To gain a better understanding of fertility behavior, we link subjective well-being to fertility. The strong cultural belief that children positively affect the well-being of parents—and especially of women—is widespread throughout the world, and has reinforced norms about the desirability of having children. Although the taboo against childlessness has weakened to a considerable extent in much of Europe and North America, levels of childlessness have remained low. Despite this popular belief, which is bolstered by academic work arguing that children (and marriage) contribute to individual well-being, a large body of literature in the U.S. has found a negative or an insignificant relationship between the happiness of parents and their fertility. However, little is known about the extent to which the association between fertility and well-being depends on parental characteristics such as age or socioeconomic status, whether this relationship might vary across contexts, and how unobserved selection influences the observed associations. Taking a cross-national approach, we examine the relationship between the subjective well-being of parents and fertility, and test several mechanisms through which well-being and the number of children may be related.


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)

Advanced maternal age and offspring outcomes: causal effects and countervailing period trends
Population and Development Review (2016).

Happiness: before and after the kids
Demography 51:5, 1843-1866 (2014).

New cohort fertility forecasts for the developed world: rises, falls, and reversals
Population and Development Review 39:1, 31-56 (2013).

Advances in development reverse fertility declines
Nature 460:7256, 741-743 (2009).

More Information

© David Dieschburg / photocase.com

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



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