Fertility and Well-Being

At a Glance Projects Publications Team


Causal Inference Approaches to Fertility Over the Life Course

Jessica Nisén, Mathias Lerch, Maarten Jacob Bijlsma; in Collaboration with Ben Wilson (Stockholm University, Sweden), Johanna Tassot (Maastricht University, Netherlands)

Detailed Description

Demographers have shown considerable interest in understanding how socioeconomic processes collectively determine fertility. Most theories of fertility predict that a range of socioeconomic factors have an impact on the quantum and tempo of childbearing. In particular, a number of theories postulate that socioeconomic processes are interrelated and that they determine fertility collectively and simultaneously.

However, it remains unclear (especially when examining the empirical literature) how different socioeconomic processes on the micro level interact to collectively determine individual childbearing trajectories (tempo and quantum) and thus affect fertility on the macro level. One reason for this lack of clarity is that traditional methods often struggle to disentangle path-dependent time-varying causal interrelationships between variables (e.g., socioeconomic factors). In this project, we address these challenges by using various methods in causal inference, such as the parametric g-formula and instrumental variable regression.

We applied the g-formula method to study the effects of delayed parenthood on educational and labor-market trajectories of women and men in young adulthood and to understand the role of neighborhood crime level as potential mediator for the relationship between neighborhood socioeconomic status and birth outcomes, using data on singleton births occurring in the Netherlands. In another study, we identified the potential long-term effect of fertility timing on women’s earnings. Based on data from the 1970 British Cohort Study, this study has overcome the methodological challenge of finding exogenous variation in first-birth timing by using occurrence and timing of biological fertility shocks.

Research Keywords:

Family Behavior, Fertility Development, Life Course, Statistics and Mathematics

Region keywords:

United Kingdom


Nisén, J.; Bijlsma, M. J.; Martikainen, P.; Wilson, B.; Myrskylä, M.:
Advances in Life Course Research 53:100496, 1–16. (2022)    
Bijlsma, M. J.; Wilson, B.:
Journal of the Royal Statistical Society/A 183:2, 493–513. (2020)    
Nisén, J.; Bijlsma, M. J.; Martikainen, P.; Wilson, B.; Myrskylä, M.:
MPIDR Working Paper WP-2019-017. (2019)    
Bijlsma, M. J.; Wilson, B.:
MPIDR Working Paper WP-2017-013. (2017)    
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.