Journal Article

Microfoundations of the weakening educational gradient of fertility

Ciganda, D., Lorenti, A., Dommermuth, L.
Population Studies, 1–20 (2024)
Open Access


The disappearance of the social gradient in fertility represents a paradigm shift that has called into question the validity of theories that predicted a decline in fertility with increased access to education and resources. Emerging theories have tried to explain this trend by highlighting a potential change in the fertility preferences of more educated couples. In this paper we add additional elements to this explanation. Using a computational modelling approach, we show that it is still possible to simulate the weakening social gradient in fertility, in the context of steady declines in family size preferences. Our results show that one of the key drivers of the change in the education–fertility relationship can be found in the transition to an increasingly regulated fertility regime. As the share of unplanned births decreases over time, the negative association between education and fertility weakens and the mechanisms that positively connect educational attainment with desired fertility become dominant.

The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.