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Title: Causes and Consequences of Low Fertility in Western Countries
Authors: Querin, Federica
Advisors: Adserà, Alícia
Contributors: Population Studies Department
Keywords: Education
Labor Market Attachment
Subjects: Demography
Issue Date: 2020
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: The UN currently estimates that 70% of the world population will live in countries with below-replacement fertility in 2045-2050, up from 48% today. This dissertation seeks to understand family formation processes in low-fertility settings, focusing on social stratification and intergenerational transmission of inequality. Each chapter addresses a factor associated with low fertility: women’s educational expansion, female labor force attachment, and the extended family. Chapter 1 analyzes how educational stratification in fertility changes following European educational expansion. Using the Gender and Generation Survey (GGS), I propose a measure for women’s relative educational positioning by country and birth cohort. I use it, together with cohort-specific tertiary education prevalence, to predict early motherhood and childlessness. Despite global convergence towards later motherhood and lower childlessness, I find substantial heterogeneity in trends across time and space. Only countries with high prevalence of college-educated women display lower educational stratification in childbearing. In Chapter 2, I study the role of intergenerational transmission of inequality in explaining why growth in women’s labor force participation is unevenly distributed and stalling for some demographic groups. I use contextual characteristics and parental education and occupation in the GGS to predict women’s attachment to the labor market throughout childbearing years. Sequence analysis and multinomial regression models show that women from families with lower maternal education and less prestigious occupations have lower labor market attachment. Socio-economic disadvantage, rather than maternal role modelling, drives this result. In Chapter 3, I propose a new causal estimate of family influences on fertility behavior through an exogenous treatment occurring at the extended family level. I use three-generation data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) and a natural experiment based on grandchildren sex-mix to show that the combination of one’s own children with one’s nieces and nephews matters for fertility progression. These findings re-affirm the relevance of the extended family as a unit of analysis for fertility. Taken together, these chapters find that the extended family, parental characteristics, and aggregate education all shape childbearing choices. By analyzing the mechanisms underpinning the emergence of low fertility, my dissertation contributes to delineating its implications, especially for socio-economic inequality.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Population Studies

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