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Educational Differentials on the Transition to First Birth in South Korea: Findings from the Korean Longitudinal Survey of Women and Families

Jolene Tan, Australian National University

There are inconsistent findings in the literature on the effect of educational differentials on fertility, particularly in a low fertility setting such as South Korea. The leader-follower model suggests that low fertility patterns would spread from more educated women to less educated women, whereas the permanent-difference model posits that the gaps in fertility rates between education groups will remain salient throughout and after the fertility transition. By utilising micro-level panel data from the Korean Longitudinal Survey of Women and Families (KLoWF) 2007–2018, this study tests these competing hypotheses by examining the fertility patterns of recent birth cohorts and their transitions to first birth, while controlling for a range of demographic and familial socioeconomic variables. Using discrete-time survival analysis, the results show that education-fertility differentials may have converged during the transition but are re-emerging post-transition. This finding indicates support for the permanent-difference model as the educational gradient in fertility remains substantial for the younger birth cohorts. Given the rising education levels and declining fertility in post-transition countries, this study highlights the importance of recognising how women’s changing educational profile impacts the transition to first birth in an ultra-low fertility setting.

Keywords: Fertility and childbirth, Family demography, Panel studies, Event history analysis

See paper.

  Presented in Session 91. Social Differences and Fertility