Differentials in Fertility Patterns: The Divergence of Childbearing and the Convergence of Childlessness in the United States, 1980s-2000s

Sandra M. Florian, University of Southern California
Lynne M. Casper, University of Southern California

Fertility trends reveal an increased prevalence of childlessness; however, little research has studied its socioeconomic and demographic correlates or compared them to patterns of childbearing. Using survival analysis and data from the National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG), we analyze changes in the associations of key socio-demographic factors with childlessness from the 1980s to the late 2000s and compared them to trends in childbearing. Previous studies reveal a bifurcating pattern of childbearing: highly educated, wealthier, and white women increasingly delay childbearing and usually have children within marriage; while low-educated, low-income, and disadvantaged racial/ethnic minority women bear children at relatively young ages and more often outside marriage. Contrary to this pattern, we found a more convergent trend in the socioeconomic characteristics of childless women by marital status, education and, race/ethnicity; however, we found a growing divergence by income. This study reveals different patterns of stratification of mothers and childless women.

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Presented in Session 165: Infertility and Childlessness