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Intergenerational transmission of fertility in the UK: A parity-specific investigation using the 1970 British Cohort Study

Katherine Keenan, University of St Andrews
Julia Mikolai, University of St Andrews
Rebecca King, University of St Andrews

Previous studies consistently find evidence for the intergenerational transmission of fertility in industrialised countries; i.e. a strong relationship between mothers’ and daughters’ fertility timing and family size. Recent studies, largely based on Nordic register data, found that the intergenerational transmission of fertility persists after accounting for socio-demographic factors, suggesting that socialisation and cultural factors are the main explanation. However, the Nordic context is unique; levels of inequality are much lower than in other European countries. We focus on the UK, where inequalities are large. Using data from the 1970 British Cohort Study, we estimate discrete-time event history models to analyse the role of family size and mothers’ age at first birth for the transition to first, second, and third birth among cohort members. We find evidence for intergenerational transmission of birth timing and parity, especially for first and third births. Parental and cohort member socio-economic and partnership characteristics, and intergenerational social mobility did not explain these associations, suggesting that transmission is equally likely across the socioeconomic hierarchy. Our study highlights the role of socialisation and other cultural factors, such as the strong two-child norm in the UK, for the transmission of fertility behaviour across generations even in the UK context.

Keywords: Intergenerational relations, Event history analysis, Life course analysis, Family demography

See extended abstract.

  Presented in Session 63. Timing and Childbearing