Childbearing By Educational Level in Sweden

Karin Lundström, Statistics Sweden
Johan Tollebrant, Statistics Sweden

In Sweden, like in most other countries, there for long time been a negative correlation between education and childbirth. Women with a higher educational level are getting fewer children and lower educated have more children.

Using administrative data on the total population in Sweden, we analysed the complete birth histories of the cohorts of native-born women born between 1950 and 1980. We follow them from age 30, when most have complete their educations and follow them up to age 45.

When comparing birth rates for women with different levels of education, those with the lowest educational level have had most children on average. But the differences have begun to decline. Women with high levels of education are most likely to have children and they also got a second child to a greater extent than others. Of women born 1975, 11.6 percent of those with at least three years post-secondary education were childless at age 41. The corresponding proportion among women with primary education was 17.1 percent. The proportion that have got at least two children follow the same pattern. Of the highest educated, 76.4 percent had at least two children and among the lowest educated, 65.5 percent.

For women with the highest level of education, the trend in Sweden has been against an increased average number of children, while the number of children has decreased for the other groups. This pattern stands out in an international perspective, only in a few countries the childbirth increase among high educated.

With an increasing proportion of women with high education, this group is growing and the proportion of women with only primary education is decreasing. Therefore, in forecasts of future childbirth, education level may be worth to considering.


Childbearing byeducational level in Sweden

 

In Sweden, like inmost other countries, there for long time been a negative correlation betweeneducation and childbirth. Women with a higher educational level are gettingfewer children and lower educated have more children.

Usingadministrative data on the total population in Sweden, we analysed the completebirth histories of the cohorts of native-born womenborn between 1950 and 1980. We follow them from age 30, when most havecomplete their educations and follow them up to age 45.

In recent years,we can see that the trend has begun to reverse. Women with high levels ofeducation are most likely to have children and they also got a second child toa greater extent than others.

The main reasonswhy highly educated women have fewer children is that they generally startchildbirth later, but also have a greater loss of income and more to lose in careeropportunities.

When comparingbirth rates for women with different levels of education, those with the lowesteducational level have had most children on average. Women born in 1950 withprimary education have on average 2.07 children, while those with at leastthree years of post-secondary education have 1.90 children in average. Womenwith secondary education or with less than three years of post-secondaryeducation are in between.

Even among womenborn after 1950 they whit the lowest educational levels have had most childrenin average, but the differences have begun to decline. Of women born 1975, 11.6percent of those with at least three years post-secondary education werechildless at age 41. The corresponding proportion among women with primary educationwas 17.1 percent. The proportion that have got at least two children follow thesame pattern. Of the highest educated, 76.4 percent had at least two childrenand among the lowest educated, 65.5 percent.

For women with thehighest level of education, the trend in Sweden has been against an increasedaverage number of children, while the number of children has decreased for theother groups. This pattern stands out in an international perspective, only ina few countries the childbirth increase among high educated.

The increasingaverage number of children among the highly educated women in Sweden proves tobe explained by an increased tendency to get a first as well as a second child.The highly educated women are nowadays to a lesser extent childless and to agreater extent also receive a second child. However, women with a low level ofeducation still receive a third or fourth child to a greater extent.

With an increasingproportion of women with high education, this group is growing and theproportion of women with only primary education is decreasing. Therefore, inforecasts of future childbirth, education level may be worth to considering.

Presented in Session 1233: Posters