Ní Bhrolcháin, Máire and Toulemon, Laurent
The trend to later childbearing: is there evidence of postponement? , Southampton, GB Southampton Statistical Sciences Research Institute 36pp.
(S3RI Applications and Policy Working Papers, A03/10).
Fertility rates in most developed societies have been declining at younger ages and rising at older ages. This phenomenon is widely referred to as reflecting the postponement of fertility. But is this an accurate description? The paper considers whether recent changes in the age-pattern of childbearing in France can be described as postponement. The statistical features of time series of rates are distinguished from the underlying behavioural process generating these. Criteria for the presence of postponement are proposed. In the absence of detailed, longitudinal information on intentions, the occurrence or otherwise of postponement is assessed by indirect means. Some evidence is found consistent with fertility postponement in recent decades. However, it cannot be interpreted causally, and so cannot be used either to explain recent trends or to anticipate future trends. Much more detailed evidence is required to establish the existence of postonement in the behavioural sense than is generally assumed.
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