MPIDR Working Paper

Couples’ educational pairings, selection into parenthood, and second birth progressions

Nitsche, N., Trimarchi, A., Jalovaara, M.
MPIDR Working Paper WP-2020-029, 43 pages.
Rostock, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (August 2020)
Open Access


Educational pairings, in other words the combination of educational levels of both partners, have been shown to have meaningful implications for couples’ childbearing behavior. Specifically, in a variety of developed countries, second birth transition rates appear to be higher among homogamous highly educated couples than among heterogamous couples consisting of one highly educated partner and one lower educated partner. However, the mechanisms that underlie these findings are not well-understood. We extend this literature by proposing and testing three potential mechanisms. We investigate whether differentials in second birth rates by educational pairing are, first, an artefact created by overly broad education categories, which mask that these differentials are driven by ‘low pooled resources’ or ‘large distance’ couples; or, second, driven by the educational upgrading processes of the partners; or, third, due to unobserved heterogeneity among couples. Using data from Finnish registers, we indeed find that second birth rates are higher as the pooled resources of couples increase. However, we also find that differentials among the higher educated couples hinge upon ‘low pooled resources’ couples; meaning that the partner’s education matters in predicting the risk of a second birth transition mainly if the partner has low tertiary education. Furthermore, we show that adding a common term across birth episodes to address unobserved heterogeneity renders most pairing differentials among the higher educated groups insignificant, while pairing differentials remain large and significant among the lower educated groups. 

Keywords: Finland, fertility
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.