Class and Education Differences in Planned and Unplanned Fertility

Kelly Musick, University of Southern California
Paula S. England, Stanford University

Class and education differentials in levels of fertility are longstanding. In recent decades, class and education differentials in the timing of fertility have widened, with higher status women increasing age at first birth much more than lower status women. In this paper, we examine three potential factors explaining socioeconomic differences in fertility: 1) the value women place on children; 2) opportunity costs; and 3) contraceptive efficacy. Using data from over twenty years of the 1979 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY), we describe patterns of planned and unplanned childbearing among women from different class backgrounds and with varying levels of own education. We use competing hazard models to examine the role of socioeconomic status in planned and unplanned fertility, and we explore the extent to which the association between socioeconomic status and fertility is mediated by childbearing ideals, opportunity costs, and consistency of contraceptive use.

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Presented in Session 130: Fertility Preferences