Trends in Cohort Childlessness and Completed Fertility in Finland: Persistent and Strengthening Inequalities in Family Formation

Marika Jalovaara , University of Turku
Anneli Miettinen, Kela and University of Turku

Using total population register data, we compares cohort fertility (cohort total fertility (CTF), ultimate childlessness, cohort total fertility and parity progression ratios) by educational level and gender in Finland. We find persistent (men) and strengthening (women) educational disparities in family formation. The overall stability of CTF levels and the persistency of educational differences in CTF masks remarkable changes in fertility patterns that have occurred among women with different levels of education. Childlessness among low-educated and medium educated women has increased strongly across cohorts. In contrast, childlessness levels have plateaued and now show a clear decline. Among women who had at least one child, we see a clear CTF increase among basic and, to a lesser extent, among secondary educated women. Lower educated women are increasingly likely to progress to third and fourth parity. Much of the increase is linked to childbearing across several partnerships. In other words, fertility patterns among lower educated women show increasing polarisation into childlessness vs. having larger number of children. This is consistent with our more general observation of what we call double polarisation whereby family-life courses of those with lower education levels are polarised into childlessness and (almost) neverpartnering on one hand and (often early) non-union childbearing, single and non-residential parenthood, and childbearing across several partnerships on the other. In contrast, the family life courses of highly educated men and women are more uniform and characterised by less fragmentary partnership trajectories, enabling continued childbearing with one partner.

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 Presented in Session 128. Childlessness