Is There a Reversal in the Educational Gradient in Second Birth Risks? a Cross-Country Comparison of Timing and Quantum Effects

Anna Matysiak, Wittgenstein Centre (IIASA, VID/ÖAW, WU), Vienna Institute of Demography/Austrian Academy of Sciences
Daniele Vignoli, University of Florence

This study contributes to the discussion on the educational gradient in second births among women who have not yet completed their reproductive careers. Previous studies reported that highly educated women born after 1970 in Northern, Western and Southern Europe were more likely to progress to the second child than the low educated. This finding is often interpreted as a sign of a change in the educational gradient in subsequent childbearing and a marker of an ongoing social change in gender roles. Nonetheless, the studies on which this finding is based usually employed event-history models and this method does not allow for concluding whether highly educated women are indeed more likely to experience the second birth or they only have it just earlier. In this study, we address this crucial oversight by estimating parametric mixture cure models. These models allow for assessing the effects of women’s education on the timing of the event and the probability of its occurrence. By using Harmonised Histories data, which contain fertility and education histories, we inspect this issue for 14 European countries, Australia and the US. Our preliminary findings, obtained for Italy, provide rationale for using mixture cure models for modelling the differential effects of women’s education on second birth risks. While a standard event-history model indicates that highly educated women are more likely to give birth to the second child, the mixture models show that this finding is fully driven by timing effects: Highly educated women have their second children more quickly after the first, but they are not more likely to give birth to the second child than the low educated women.

Presented in Session 111: Education and Fertility