Regional Variation in Personality Is Associated with Regional Variation in the Level and Shape of the Fertility Schedule across the United States

Daniel A. Briley, University of Texas at Austin
Joseph E. Potter, University of Texas at Austin
Peter Rentfrow, University of Cambridge
Samuel Gosling, University of Texas at Austin
Jeff Potter, Atof Inc., Cambridge, MA
Elliot Tucker-Drob, University of Texas at Austin

Levels of fertility, as assessed by the period total fertility rate, vary substantially across regions in the United States. The shape of the age-specific fertility schedule also varies substantially with some states having peak fertility relatively early and others relatively late. Economic situations, values, or motivations are often offered as explanations of these trends. Much less attention has been paid to individual differences in personality. We evaluated whether variation between states in the personality traits Extraversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Neuroticism, and Openness to Experience were associated with the level and shape of fertility across states. We found several associations between personality and fertility, particularly for aspects of the fertility schedule representing conscious control. These associations were robust to controls for sociodemographics, voting behavior, and religiosity, each of which are known correlates of fertility. Personality represents a person-centered predictor that can be leveraged to explain the existence and persistence of fertility differentials.

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Presented in Session 194: Determinants of Birth Timing