Modelling the Link between Later Childbearing Ages and the Change in Childlessness

Eva Beaujouan , University of Vienna (Wittgenstein Centre)
Carlo Giovanni Camarda, Institut National d'Études Démographiques (INED)

Late childbearing is on the rise across low fertility countries, and the increase has been particularly strong in the last two decades. Many women now start trying to have children or still want children above age 35-40, i.e.~at ages where childbearing is under strong normative, social and biological constraints. In this paper, we estimate how these constraints may lead to an increasing number of childless women. We use birth cohort data on first birth available in the Human Fertility Database for 8 European countries. We forecast first birth rates of the cohorts not fully observed using two alternative methods. First, we complete unconditional first birth rates over age and birth cohort, assuming a certain degree of smoothness and coherence to observed trends over these two dimensions. Second, we perform a counterfactual scenario: for uncompleted cohorts we impose to late childbearing ages the mean age-pattern of earlier completed cohorts computed from equal fertility levels. Whereas the first approach can be considered a simple extrapolation of past trends, the second measures late fertility releasing the age constraints due to postponement. Difference between these two approaches in terms childlessness quantifies the effect of postponing childbearing towards really old ages. Our study suggests that by the 1985 birth cohort and depending on the country, 0.5 to 2.1 additional percent of women will be childless due to age-related constraints if no change in the use of Assisted Reproductive Technology or in the norms surrounding very late fertility takes place.

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 Presented in Session 128. Childlessness