Contemporary topics in low fertility: Late transitions to parenthood and low fertility in East Asia

Marissa Wheeler, University of Pennsylvania


Two contemporary topics in fertility are investigated: late transitions to parenthood and low fertility. In the first essay, I use longitudinal data from the NLSY79 to investigate three explanations for educational differences in transitions to parenthood after age 30 in the U.S.: intentions, resources, and opportunities for partnership. I find that, conditional on childlessness at age 30, fertility intentions are the most important factor in explaining the higher odds of transitioning to parenthood after age 30 among college-educated women. This finding is consistent with making up postponed births among college graduates. In the second essay, I examine the responsiveness of fertility to major economic shock using the case of South Korea following the 1997 Asian financial crisis. I find a significant decline in first birth odds after the 1997 financial crisis. These results are consistent with growing evidence in favor of a pro-cyclical view of fertility and suggest that we may see similar behavior in response to the recent financial crisis and slow recovery. I also find that women over age 30 experienced a decline in first birth risks after the financial crisis, which suggests that fertility at older ages can be subject to further postponement in response to period conditions and calls into question assumptions that postponed fertility will eventually be recuperated. In the final chapter, I turn to the low fertility context of Taiwan. I investigate the association between parental investment in children's education and fertility across a wide variety of investment indicators. Using evolutionary theories of modern low fertility as a framework, I expect to find that a long-term high investment strategy is associated with lower risk of having another child. However, I do not find this association in multivariate analysis. I do find a significant negative association with current financial expenditure and residential moves. Thus I do find support for the high costs of raising children as a factor in low fertility but I do not find support for the evolutionary perspective in particular. Furthermore, these results suggest that parents' high aspirations for education reflect a widely shared cultural belief rather than a quantity-quality tradeoff.

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Recommended Citation

Wheeler, Marissa, "Contemporary topics in low fertility: Late transitions to parenthood and low fertility in East Asia" (2011). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3475930.