Changing Education, Changing Fertility: A Decomposition of Completed Fertility in Australia

Presenter/s: Associate Professors Edith Gray, Associate Professor Ann Evans

Event type: Seminar

Event date: Tuesday, 12 November 2019 - 11:30am to 12:30pm

Event venue: Jean Martin Room, Beryl Rawson Bldg #13, Ellery Circuit, ANU

The expansion in education in Australia, particularly for women, is one of the most significant social changes of the last five decades. The relationship between education and fertility has been widely studied, and increases in higher education for women are consistently associated with lower fertility. Given the close link between education and fertility, this paper questions what effect the changing educational profile of Australian women has had on overall fertility trends.

This seminar investigates the effect of the increase in education on completed fertility by decomposing the change in overall completed fertility into two components: (1) change in completed fertility as a result of the proportion of women in different education categories and, (2) changes in completed fertility of women in each education category. Using 2016 Census data we compare the number of children ever born to five cohorts of women born between 1952 and 1976. Decomposition is used to separate the effects of the two components on completed fertility.

We find that the educational composition of women in these cohorts is dramatically different, with an increasing number of women having completed tertiary education in later cohorts. Completed fertility has also changed across successive cohorts of women. For the earliest cohorts most of the decline is due to declines in completed fertility within education categories, but for later cohorts the decline is attributable to increases in the proportion of women with higher levels of education. In particular the composition effect of the growing number of women with a Bachelors degree and the shrinking proportion of women who have not completed high school have contributed to this decline.

We conclude that despite tertiary education becoming much more common, fertility within this group remains lower than other education groups. While other countries have seen a narrowing of the gap in fertility rates between education groups, this pattern is not found in Australia.

This event is run by the School of Demography, ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences


Updated:  7 November 2012/Responsible Officer:  Convenor, Gender Institute/Page Contact:  Web manager, Gender Institute