Memorandum, Department of Economics, University of Oslo 2007,11
Surprisingly, relatively little is known about the relationship between education and completed fertility in low fertility countries and especially the trend in this relationship over time. An inverse relationship is expected, but the topic has been left largely unexplored for at least a generation, and for men the topic is almost completely unexplored empirically. In this paper, we use data from the population registers covering all Norwegians born 1940-64. Among women, the relationship between completed fertility and the educational level attained at age 39 has become substantially less negative. In all the cohorts, better educated women have more often remained childless than the less educated, and they have had later first births, which also contributes to lower subsequent fertility. However, the negative effect of education on higher-order birth rates net of this impact of later motherhood has disappeared in the younger cohorts. Family-friendly policies and ideologies, leading, for example, to better access to high-quality day care, are likely the main engine behind this shift. Among men, a positive relationship has emerged. The better educated become fathers later than others, but fewer remain childless, and there has been an increasingly stimulating effect of education on second- and third-birth rates. We discuss these sex differences in the light of the persistent differences between mother and father roles.