Exploring the effects of spousal education and employment on female age at first birth using international census micro data

Elisabeth D. Root, University of Colorado at Boulder
Margaret A Carrel, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Although shifts in fertility levels have taken place in both the United States and Europe, remarkable differences exist between the United States’ above-replacement fertility rates (2.1 in 2005) and the lowest-low rates of nations such as Greece (1.33 in 2005). These fertility declines may in part be attributed to tempo distortions caused by rising ages at first birth. Most studies of reproduction decisions focus exclusively on women’s social and economic characteristics, disregarding spousal or partner characteristics that also affect the timing of a woman’s first birth. This may be due, in part, to the lack of large-scale datasets that allow researchers to link women’s and spouse’s characteristics. In this study we show how the Integrated Public Use Microdata Series – International (IPUMS-I) data can be used to examine the simultaneous effects of male and female education, nativity and labor force involvement on women’s age at first birth in Greece and the U.S. Data are drawn from the 2001 Greek National Population Housing Census and the 2004-2005 United State American Community Survey. Results indicate that in the U.S., the most important predictors of age at first birth are marital status and education while in Greece the most important predictors are education and employment. In the Greek models that include spousal characteristics, education is the most important male characteristic but the addition of spousal data did not significantly change the strength or effect of any of the women’s characteristics on age at first birth. Thus, it appears that spousal characteristics do not modify women’s childbearing behaviors. In contrast, spousal education in the U.S. has the most significant impact on age at first birth and also significantly modifies the importance of women’s characteristics on age at first birth; decreasing the effect of women’s education and nativity.

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Presented in Session 83: Timing of Family Formation