MPIDR Working Paper

More education and fewer children? the contribution of educational enrollment and attainment to the fertility decline in Norway

Beck, K. C., Hellstrand, J., Myrskylä, M.
MPIDR Working Paper WP-2024-009, 61 pages.
Rostock, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (May 2024)
Open Access


Period fertility has declined rapidly in Norway in the 2010s, reaching record lows. While there is a clear education-fertility dynamic, significant educational shifts have occurred and it’s unclear how much this contributed to recent fertility declines. To disentangle this, we utilize high-quality Norwegian register data and model yearly transitions between educational enrolment, attainment and childbearing for men and women born in 1964-2002. Using a counterfactual approach, we explore the contribution of educational expansion versus lower fertility by education to the decline in period and cohort fertility. Forecasting is used to complete fertility for cohorts aged 30+. We found that educational expansion contributed partially to the observed cohort fertility decline (2.11-2.01) for 1964-1974 female cohorts but stagnated for younger cohorts and the predicted decline thereafter (1.76 by the 1988 cohort), and the 2010s period fertility decline, is fully driven by decreased fertility across educational levels. For men, educational expansion was slower and didn’t contribute to the fertility decline. For both genders, the contribution of changed fertility behavior was strongest among the lower educated, particularly for predicted ultimate childlessness. Our results suggest that increased education isn’t the main fertility barrier in contemporary Norway. Instead, socioeconomic resources increasingly promote childbearing for both genders.

Keywords: Educational attainment, educational enrollment, fertility decline, Norway, multi-state model, fertility forecasting

Keywords: Norway
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.