Journal Article

Effect of family background on the educational gradient in lifetime fertility of Finnish women born 1940-50

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

Population Studies, 68:3, 321-337 (2014)



An inverse association between education and fertility in women has been found in many societies but the causes of this association remain inadequately understood. We investigated whether observed and unobserved family-background characteristics explained educational differences in lifetime fertility among 35,212 Finnish women born in 1940–50. Poisson and logistic regression models, adjusted for measured socio-demographic family-background characteristics and for unobserved family characteristics shared by siblings, were used to analyse the relationship between education and the number of children, having any children, and fertility beyond the first child. The woman's education and the socio-economic position of the family were negatively associated with fertility. Observed family characteristics moderately (3–28 per cent) explained the association between education and fertility, and results from models including unobserved characteristics supported this interpretation. The remaining association may represent a causal relationship between education and fertility or joint preferences that form independently of our measures of background.