Education, other socioeconomic characteristics across the life course, and fertility among Finnish men

Nisén, J., Martikainen, P., Myrskylä, M., Silventoinen, K.

European Journal of Population (2017)



The level of education and other adult socioeconomic characteristics of men are known to associate with their fertility, but early-life socioeconomic characteristics may also be related. We studied how men’s adult and early-life socioeconomic characteristics are associated with their eventual fertility and whether the differences therein by educational level are explained or mediated by other socioeconomic characteristics. The data on men born in 1940–1950 (N = 37,082) were derived from the 1950 Finnish census, which is linked to later registers. Standard and sibling fixed-effects Poisson and logistic regression models were used. Education and other characteristics were positively associated with the number of children, largely stemming from a higher likelihood of a first birth among the more socioeconomically advantaged men. The educational gradient in the number of children was not explained by early socioeconomic or other characteristics shared by brothers, but occupational position and income in adulthood mediated approximately half of the association. Parity-specific differences existed: education and many other socioeconomic characteristics predicted the likelihood of a first birth more strongly than that of a second birth, and the mediating role of occupational position and income was also strongest for first births. Relatively small differences were found in the likelihood of a third birth. In men, education is positively associated with eventual fertility after controlling for early socioeconomic and other characteristics shared by brothers. Selective entry into fatherhood based on economic provider potential may contribute considerably to educational differentials in the number of children among men.