France and Great Britain : rising educational participation results in later births

Population and Societies

495, December 2012

Women everywhere are having their children at progressively older ages. In developed countries, where the first birth is already later than elsewhere, the age of first-time motherscontinues to rise. In a comparison of France and Great Britain Máire Ní Bhrolcháin and Éva Beaujouan examine the influence and role of longer participation in education.
Women are having their first child at later ages in developed countries. The mean age at first birth is now four years later in England and Wales and in France than in the mid-1970s. The expansion in education and the longer time enrolled in education are the principal factors explaining this delay. In both countries, the age at the completion of education and at first birth have in fact risen by about the same margin. The time from the end of education to first birth rose by only half a year in the 15 years between 1980-84 and 1995-99. The link between the two trends emerges clearly when we measure fertility by time since completing education rather than by chronological age. And while longer educational enrolment explains most of the delay to childbearing, it is also the best educated who have delayed childbearing the most after completing their education.

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