MPIDR Working Paper

Modelling the socio-economic determinants of fertility: a mediation analysis using the parametric g-formula

Bijlsma, M. J., Wilson, B.
MPIDR Working Paper WP-2017-013, 43 pages.
Rostock, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (May 2017)
Revised October 2019. Former title: A new approach to understanding the socio-economic determinants of fertility over the life course.
Keywords: fertility, fertility determinants, socio-economic conditions, statistical analysis

Abstract

Theories predict that the timing of childbearing and number of children born are determined by multiple socio-economic factors. Despite this, many methods are unable to investigate the interrelationships between these determinants, including the direct and indirect influence that they have on fertility over the life course. Here we use the parametric g-formula to examine the interdependent influences of time-varying socio-economic processes – education, employment status and partnership status – on fertility. To demonstrate this approach, we study a cohort of women who were born in the UK in 1970. Our results show that socio-economic processes play an important role in determining fertility, not only directly but also indirectly. We show that increasing higher education attendance has a largely direct effect on early childbearing up to age 25, resulting in a substantial increase in childlessness. However, childbearing at later ages is dominated by an indirect effect of education on fertility, via partnership status and employment status, that is twice as large as the direct effect. We also use the g-formula to examine bias due to unobserved heterogeneity, and demonstrate that our results appear to be robust. We conclude that the method provides a valuable tool for mediation analysis in studies of interdependent life course processes.

Key words: fertility, socio-economic determinants, mediation, g-formula, UK

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.