Fertility and Educational Pairing in Latin America: An Analysis through Cohort Fertility

Everton E. C. Lima, Universidade Estadual de Campinas (UNICAMP)
José Henriqe Monteiro da Silva, Unicamp
Maria Coleta Oliveira, Unicamp

Many Latin America are marked over the years by a general fertility decline trend towards replacement level. In this process, couple’s education plays an important role in shaping individual’s behavior and, therefore, influences on marital and reproductive decisions. Past studies have pointed out that the educational expansion in the region was strongly related to women reproductive intentions, but little is known about the role of husband’s schooling herein. In this context, this work aims to analyze the role of couple’s education attainment on cohort fertility of six countries in the region. Our results show relevant effects regarding women educational attainment on cohort fertility levels. The effects of the husband’s schooling on fertility were somewhat lower for Argentina, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay. However, Brazil and Chile showed noticeable cohort fertility differentials according to male’s schooling, especially among old cohorts, but a reduced effect among younger cohorts. These results suggest that the achieved number of children in household, especially in recent periods, became much more determined by wife’s educational levels.


Latin America has experienceda rapid fertility decline over most of its countries, between 1950s and 2000s(Merrick & Berquó 1983, Guzmán et al. 2006). Nowadays, almost all countriesin the region are below or close to the replacement levels (Lima et al. 2017),but the fertility transition process occurred unevenly at different levels andpaces across the region, due to socioeconomic disparities across countries(Chackiel & Schkolnik 1996).  Many features played an important role in thisprocess of change reproductive behavior: the role of female sterilization,industrialization and urbanization, expansion of the labor market, reduction ininfant mortality rates, increased access to education together with expansionof the female labor force participation, reduction of populations involved inagrarian and rural activities, changes in gender relationships and greaterautonomy for women, increase in consumption, wider range of consumer goods,expansion of telecommunication systems and availability of modern contraceptivemethods (Merrick & Berquó 1983, Faria 1989, Alves 1994, Guzmán & Bravo1994, Guzmán et al. 1996, Martine et al. 2002, Potter et al. 2002).

In parallel, fertility declinetowards replacement levels went hand in hand with an educational expansion(OECD 2015), which itself has contributed to changes in reproductive behavior(Castro-Martin & Juarez 1995, Jejeebhoy 1995). This was followed by afertility polarization (Lima et al. 2017) and by a rise in motherhood postponementin the region (Rosero-Bixby et al. 2009).

Several studies have beenconcerned with fertility decline under replacement levels and its consequencesto population aging in Latin America (Chackiel 2006, Guzmán et al. 2006,Castanheira & Kohler 2015). In common, all these works usually focus theiranalyses on period fertility developments and little is known about cohortfertility trends in the region (Reher & Requena 2014), as well as the roleof the partner’s education in women’s fertility (Nitsche et al. 2015). This isone of the aims pursued in this work, to get an understanding of historicalfertility developments in Latin America based on cohort fertility analyses inassociation the couples education. Cohort analysis have the advantage ofconsidering groups that experienced similar events through life course, such asthe educational expansion observed in the region. The educational pairingapproach is an attempt to evaluate the male’s schooling effect over the cohortfertility of women in union.


For our analysis, we usedstandardized and harmonized data from National Censuses of 6 selected LatinAmerican countries, collected via IPUMS-International in selected availableperiods: Argentina (1980,1991, 2001), Brazil (1970,1991, 2010), Chile (1982,1992, 2002), Mexico (1990, 2000, 2015), Peru (1993, 2007) and Uruguay (1985,1996, 2011). These countries account for more than half of Latin Americanpopulation and have acceptable census data quality (Guzmán et al 2006).

We selected four harmonizededucational attainment levels available at IPUMS-International data collection:Less than Primary (LP), Primary (P), Secondary (S) and Tertiary (T). For thecompleted cohort fertility (CFR) analysis, we have selected in the households,couples in any type of union whose women were aged 40-80 at the time of thecensus interview, e.g. we expect that they have already almost completed theirfertility. Thus, we computed the CFR values by calculating the mean number ofchildren ever born from women of each cohort for each type of educationalpairing.


The results present differentpatterns of cohort fertility in Latin America, consonant to differentdemographic and socioeconomic trajectories of the countries, and their theregional heterogeneity (Guzmán & Rodríguez 1993, Chackiel & Schkolnik1996, Arriagada 2002, Guzmán et al. 2006).

Figure 1 (in appendix)presents the CFR differentials for shifts from each partners’ schooling level,fixing this at the lower educational attainment level. Thus, we wanted tocompare the effects of male and female shifts from educational attainmentlevels, while one of them was kept at the lowest educational group. We setthree cohort groups to perform this comparison: 1) women cohorts born in 1900-34;2) women cohorts born in 1935-59 (forerunners of the generalized change in LAreproductive behavior); and, 3) women born after 1960.

Caixa de texto:Figure 1. Cohort Fertility Differentials for shifts from each partner''s educational attainment fixing one of them in the Less than Primary educational group.

As results most striking,except for Brazil and Chile in a smaller extent, the partner’s education seemedto have little or almost no impact in women reproductive decisions. Hence,women educational achievements seems to be indeed one of the main driven forcesof couple’s fertility decisions in Latin America. Hereby, we may speculate thatin places where family planning policies are nonexistent or not extended to allsegments of society, the women education achievements improves the bargainingpower of females and its influence on the choice of the “desirable” number ofchildren within the household (Castro-Martin & Juarez 1995,McDonald 2000).

Presented in Session 1159: Fertility