Socio-Economic Status and Male and Female Fertility in 13 EU Countries

Julia Barthold, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research

In evolutionary terms, the common observation that people in lower socio-economic groups have more children defies explanation. We attempt to resolve this conundrum by analyzing the relationship between socio-economic status and fertility, stratified by sex, across Europe. We use the Survey on Health, Aging, and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) database, which contains information about income, education and completed fertility of ~45,000 individuals in 13 EU countries. We hypothesize that observed relationships are driven by sex-differences in mate preference and number of fertile years. For men, investing time to acquire a high status improves their chances of finding a partner, but women must postpone reproduction, which decreases fertility. As expected, we find that women with higher income and education have lower fertility. Men however have a similar number of children across all socio-economic groups. We further investigate sex-specific levels of childlessness and individual-level factors that could explain differences among countries.

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Presented in Session 49: Evolutionary Approaches to Demography