Fertility and Well-Being

At a Glance Projects Publications Team

Research Area

The Intersection of Health and Fertility

In this area, we examine several dimensions of the intersection between health and fertility. The link between health and fertility is at the very core of demography and can been seen at the heart of demographic theory and research, ranging from Malthus to the development of the demographic transition model and to much contemporary research. Understanding the link between health and fertility is critical to gain deeper insights into how secular trends in population health, such as the rise in obesity, may be linked to fertility variation and to understand whether period variation in quantum fertility, or spacing between births, will have an impact on the health of parents, on the perinatal outcomes for children, and on long-term educational and socioeconomic attainment, health, and mortality. The links between fertility, health, and human capital development may in turn have meaningful effects for broader measures of social and economic development. This research area aims to build a firm foundation for understanding these important relationships stemming from the health-–fertility nexus. 

The projects in this research area address question such as whether health is a predictor of fertility outcomes and whether the reproductive history of individuals affects their health and mortality in their post-reproductive years (e.g., after menopause). We also examine whether fertility decisions made by parents have consequences for their children. For example, we examine how parental age at the time of birth, spacing between births, family size, and birth order affect children's health and mortality at various stages of their life course, as well as their educational and socioeconomic attainment. We also study how new medical developments, such as medically assisted reproduction, affect the health of children, thus shedding new light on the potential health consequences of medical innovation with impacts that have yet to be well understood. Much of our research in this area also seeks to identify the potential heterogeneity in the associations that we observe by gender, various dimensions of educational and socioeconomic attainment, and across migrant groups.

To address these questions, we use data from a wide range of countries in North America and Western Europe as well as low- and middle-income countries. Our data sources include Nordic population registers, survey datasets such as the UK cohort studies, and the Demographic Health Surveys, covering over 75 countries in the Global South. Most of the research in this area applies individual-level longitudinal analyses, often taking advantage of kinship linkages in the data in order to take account of the context in which an individual is living. The research in this area is of high quality and uses careful research designs, and advanced statistical techniques that aim to limit confounding, to help us better understand the mediating pathways for the associations that we identify. In several of our studies, we also aim to link the micro-level estimates to macro-level change, for example examining how public health improvements and general social and economic development moderate the associations between fertility behaviors and health, and health and fertility.

Research Keywords:

Fertility Development, Health Care, Public Health, Medicine, and Epidemiology

Projects of this Research Area

Costs and Gains of Postponing Parenthood Project details
Consequences of Sibling Group Structure Project details
Medically Assisted Reproduction Project details
The Influence of Health and Cognition on Fertility Project details
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.