The relationship between fertility and women’s education level in the Netherlands

Elma van Agtmaal-Wobma, Statistics Netherlands
Mila van Huis, Statistics Netherlands

This paper aims to answer questions about the relationship between women’s level of education and fertility. If higher educated women postpone motherhood, does this affect their total number of children, or do they catch up at older ages? Are higher educated women more often childless than lower educated women? Do effects of education on fertility change over time and generations? The results provide a good overview of fertility in the Netherlands of women in birth cohort 1945 onwards, by education. Until now, education information was only available from surveys. Recently, detailed information on education has become available to Statistics Netherlands on a semi-integral basis. This makes it possible to make analyses using the variable ‘education’ on a large data set of women. The fertility analyses in this study were carried out on 4 million women born between 1945 and 1979, registered in the Dutch population register. Our analyses lead to the conclusion that the difference in fertility behaviour between higher and lower educated women seems to be decreasing. This applies for childlessness and average number of children, but not for postponement of motherhood. The share of childless higher educated women has remained stable over time, while it increased in the other education groups. This effect is also reflected in the average number of children per woman, that even increased slightly over time for higher educated women, while it has decreased for those with lower and medium education levels. On the other hand, the gap between mother’s mean age at first birth widened between lower and higher educated women. The mean age at which women become mothers for the first time has increased strongly over time, and the higher the education, the longer motherhood is postponed. Increase over time however was smaller among the lower educated.

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Presented in Session 61: Education and Fertility