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Does Postponement Explain the Trend to Later Childbearing in France?

Máire Ní Bhrolcháin and Laurent Toulemon

Vienna Yearbook of Population Research, 2005, vol. 3, issue 1, 83-107

Abstract: Fertility rates in most developed societies have been declining at younger ages and rising at older ages. This phenomenon is widely referred to as reflecting the postponement of fertility. But is this an accurate description? The present paper considers whether recent changes in the age-pattern of childbearing in France can be described as postponement. The statistical features of time series of rates are distinguished from the underlying behavioural process generating them. Criteria for the presence of postponement are proposed. In the absence of detailed, longitudinal information on intentions, the occurrence or otherwise of postponement is assessed by indirect means. Some evidence is found consistent with fertility postponement in recent decades. However, it cannot be interpreted causally, and so cannot be used either to explain recent trends or to anticipate future trends. Much more detailed evidence is required to establish the existence of postponement in the behavioural sense than is generally assumed.

Date: 2005
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