Volume 33 - Article 3 | Pages 65–92 Author has provided data and code for replicating results

Educational differences in early childbearing: A cross-national comparative study

By James Raymo, Marcia Carlson, Alicia VanOrman, Sojung Lim, Brienna Perelli-Harris, Miho Iwasawa

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Date received:16 Jul 2013
Date published:07 Jul 2015
Word count:5138
Keywords:cross-national research, early childbearing, education, fertility
Additional files:readme.33-3 (text file, 2 kB)
 demographic-research.33-3 (zip file, 8 kB)


Background: Recent research on fertility in industrialized countries focuses primarily on delayed childbearing, despite the facts that large numbers of women continue to enter parenthood at relatively young ages and that early childbearing has been linked to economic disadvantage.

Objective: This cross-national comparative study describes relationships between women's educational attainment and young age at first birth and evaluates the extent to which these differences have changed over time for women born 1955-1981.

Methods: Defining 'early' childbearing as the age by which 20% of first births have occurred to women in a given birth cohort and country, we describe differences in early childbearing by educational attainment across three cohorts of women in 20 countries.

Results: We find a strong negative educational gradient in early childbearing across all 20 countries and some evidence of an increase in the relative prevalence of early childbearing among the least-educated women. In 10 countries, the relative prevalence of early childbearing among women with low education is significantly higher for one or both of the more recent birth cohorts compared to the earliest cohort. However, many countries show no significant change, and in one country (Poland) there is modest evidence of a decreasing educational gap.

Conclusions: Evidence that educational differences in early childbearing have grown in some countries is generally consistent with the notion of family bifurcation and 'diverging destinies' by socioeconomic status. However, the pattern is not universal and future work should examine the various factors that shape these patterns, including the role of public policies.

Author's Affiliation

James Raymo - Princeton University, United States of America [Email]
Marcia Carlson - University of Wisconsin–Madison, United States of America [Email]
Alicia VanOrman - University of Wisconsin–Madison, United States of America [Email]
Sojung Lim - Utah State University, United States of America [Email]
Brienna Perelli-Harris - University of Southampton, United Kingdom [Email]
Miho Iwasawa - National Institute of Population and Social Security Research, Japan [Email]

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