Volume 35 - Article 21 | Pages 581–616  

Are daughters’ childbearing intentions related to their mothers’ socio-economic status?

By Maria Rita Testa, Valeria Bordone, Beata Osiewalska, Vegard Skirbekk


Background: Unlike actual fertility, fertility intentions are often found to be positively correlated with education. The literature explaining this paradox is scarce.

Objective: We aim to fill the gap in the existing scientific literature by searching for the main factors that influence highly educated women to plan a larger family size.

Methods: Using the first wave of the Generations and Gender Survey for four countries (Austria, Bulgaria, Italy, and Norway), we analyse the relationship between mother’s socio-economic status and daughter’s fertility intentions, controlling for daughter’s socio-economic status and sibship size. Zero-inflated Poisson regression models are employed to estimate the predictors of women’s additionally intended number of children.

Results: We find that the effect of family of origin is exerted mainly through sibship size among childless daughters: Daughters with more siblings intend to have more children. After the transition to parenthood, the effect of family of origin is exerted mainly through the mother’s level of education: Daughters with highly educated mothers intend to have more children.

Conclusions: The empirical results suggest that the positive link between births intentions and level of education might not merely be an artefact generated by the design of cross-sectional surveys but the outcome of a better socio-economic status that allows forming positive reproductive plans.

Contribution: The positive role of mother’s socio-economic status on daughter’s fertility decision-making offers a valuable interpretation of the positive link between education and fertility intentions which goes beyond the alternative explanations referring to self-selection, partner effect, or time squeeze, and needs to be confirmed by further research.

Author's Affiliation

Other articles by the same author/authors in Demographic Research

A cross-country comparison of math achievement at teen age and cognitive performance 40 years later
Volume 31 - Article 4

Ageing and diversity: Inequalities in longevity and health in low-mortality countries
Volume 50 - Article 12

When partners’ disagreement prevents childbearing: A couple-level analysis in Australia
Volume 44 - Article 33

Partners’ empowerment and fertility in ten European countries
Volume 38 - Article 49

Childlessness and fertility by couples' educational gender (in)equality in Austria, Bulgaria, and France
Volume 37 - Article 12

The future size of religiously affiliated and unaffiliated populations
Volume 32 - Article 27

Is Buddhism the low fertility religion of Asia?
Volume 32 - Article 1

Certainty of meeting fertility intentions declines in Europe during the 'Great Recession'
Volume 31 - Article 23

Couple disagreement about short-term fertility desires in Austria: Effects on intentions and contraceptive behaviour
Volume 26 - Article 3

Projection of populations by level of educational attainment, age, and sex for 120 countries for 2005-2050
Volume 22 - Article 15

Fertility trends by social status
Volume 18 - Article 5

Decomposing the change in labour force indicators over time
Volume 13 - Article 7

Most recent similar articles in Demographic Research

Ageing and diversity: Inequalities in longevity and health in low-mortality countries
Volume 50 - Article 12    | Keywords: aging, health, lifespan inequality, longevity, old-age threshold, regional differences, socioeconomic status

Fertility decline, changes in age structure, and the potential for demographic dividends: A global analysis
Volume 50 - Article 9    | Keywords: age structure, demographic dividend, demographic transition, fertility, migration, population momentum, working-age population

Analyzing hyperstable population models
Volume 49 - Article 37    | Keywords: birth trajectory, cohort analysis, cyclical populations, dynamic population model, fertility, hyperstable, period

Measuring the educational gradient of period fertility in 28 European countries: A new approach based on parity-specific fertility estimates
Volume 49 - Article 34    | Keywords: education, Europe, period fertility, quantum, tempo, total fertility rate (TFR)

The COVID-19 pandemic and fertility responses: TFR simulation analysis using parity progressions in South Korea
Volume 49 - Article 32    | Keywords: COVID-19, fertility intentions, marriage intentions, simulation