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Do the more educated prefer smaller families?

Frank Heiland, Florida State University

This study investigates the relationship between education and desired family size in Western Europe. Using rich individual-level data from West Germany we find that more-educated men and women are more likely to prefer a family of three (or more) children over a family of two children compared to individuals with average schooling. We also find some evidence that the more-educated are less likely to favour childlessness or the one-child family over having two children. Replication of the analysis with multinational data indicates that this novel relationship holds more broadly in Western Europe. Since higher education is associated with lower realized fertility, we confirm that the gap between desired and actual fertility is largest for the more-educated. We argue that these individuals deserve more attention in the current policy debate since their fertility may be particularly responsive to interventions.

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Presented in Session 164: Prospects for below-replacement fertility