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Educational differentials in fertility intentions and outcomes: family formation in Flanders in the early 1990s

David De Wachter and Karel Neels

Vienna Yearbook of Population Research, 2011, vol. 9, issue 1, 227-258

Abstract: Over the last decades the majority of European countries have witnessed fertility levels considerably below replacement. Particularly completed cohort fertility below two children per woman has raised concerns whether this trend corresponds to a decline of fertility intentions or represents a discrepancy between intended and realised fertility. Using data from the Fertility and Family Survey (FFS) conducted in 1991, we look at fertility intentions of women aged 20-39 in Flanders, documenting how intentions differ in terms of education of women and their partners, activity status and household position. For a larger group of women, we subsequently compare the effects of these characteristics on first-, second- and third-birth hazards in a prospective study based on longitudinal microdata from the 1991 and 2001 Belgian censuses. Our results indicate that lifetime fertility intentions in 1991 were above the replacement level, but also that the proportion of women having a child in the three-year period following the 1991 census is lower than the short-term intentions suggested in the FFS, particularly for first births. We find evidence of a positive educational gradient in both fertility intentions and birth hazards. For the highly educated, higher birth hazards are associated with a stronger attachment to the labour market (both before and after parenthood), homogamy to highly educated partners and more frequent uptake of (in)formal child care.

Date: 2011
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