MPIDR Working Paper

Educational differences in fertility among female same-sex couples

Ponkilainen, M., Einiö, E., Pietiläinen, M., Myrskylä, M.
MPIDR Working Paper WP-2022-030, 46 pages.
Rostock, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (November 2022)
Open Access


Same-sex couples increasingly often live in legally recognized unions and have children as a couple. The accessibility of parenthood, however, depends on intersecting contextual and couple-level characteristics. Using Finnish register data on female same-sex couples who registered their partnership in 2006–2015, during which important legal reforms regarding same-sex parenthood took place, we explore how education and the existence of prior children predict childbearing within the same-sex partnership. Female same-sex couples’ likelihood of having a child within five years of registering a partnership increased from 34% to 43% over the observation window. This increase was not universal. For couples educated to tertiary level, the increase was from 39% to 52%. For primary and lower-secondary levels, the likelihood decreased from 26% to 8%. Couples with the highest level of education and no prior children were most likely to have a child, and couples with low education and a prior child born before the partnership were least likely to do so. These results highlight how intersectional factors shape female same-sex couples’ fertility behavior. Intensifying educational differences in couples’ fertility may reflect changes in couple-level characteristics as well as institutional barriers to childbearing that need more attention.

Keywords Same-sex couple, Registered partnership, Family formation, Childbearing, Educational level

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.