Academic journal article The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies

How Universal Is the Negative Correlation between Education and Fertility?

Academic journal article The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies

How Universal Is the Negative Correlation between Education and Fertility?

Article excerpt

A negative correlation between education and fertility has been described with great regularity in modern societies. The present investigation examines the strength of this relationship with data from the 1990, 1995 and 2000 waves of the World Values Survey covering 78 countries with a combined sample size of up to 181,728 respondents. The negative correlation is present in nearly all countries, is stronger in females than males, is greater for educational level than for length of schooling, and is not mediated by personal wealth. It is strongest at relatively low levels of economic, social and cognitive development and becomes weaker in the most advanced societies. However, it is also less than maximal in the least developed countries. The relationship is strongest in Latin America and the Middle East, where the typical correlations for cohorts with completed fertility are -.31 for females and -.24 for males, and weakest in Protestant Europe, where average correlations are -.10 for females and -.01 for males. The negative relationship persists in the younger generation of advanced societies, who are reproducing under conditions of sub-replacement fertility.

Kew Words: Education; Income; Fertility; World Values Survey; Dysgenics.

A negative relationship of fertility with measures of education has been reported with great regularity, both in the less developed countries and in the most advanced societies (Graft, 1979; Cao & Lutz, 2004; Goujon & Lutz, 2004; Retherford & Luther, 1996; Weinberger, 1987). Similar negative correlations have also been described between fertility and psychometric intelligence (Lynn, 1996; Lynn & van Court, 2004; Meisenberg et al., 2006; Neiss et al., 2002; Retherford & Sewell, 1988), whereas the relationship between income and reproduction is more variable (Coleman, 1990; Weeden et al., 2006). The relationships between education, income and intelligence are stronger than the relationships of any of these variables with fertility (Herrnstein & Murray, 1994; Irwing & Lynn, 2006). Thus it is possible that relationships between schooling and reproduction are not directly causal but are mediated by income or intelligence.

The aim of the present study is not the delineation of causal paths, but a comparative survey of the strength of the education-fertility relationship in today's world. Data are from 78 countries participating in the World Values Survey. The specific questions examined are:

(1) Is a negative relationship universal across all countries and world regions, or are there notable exceptions? Some exceptions to the rule of a negative relationship of childbearing with education and related constructs, such as intelligence and social class, have been reported. In Sweden, for example, reproductive output was positively related to income before 1920 (Edin & Hutchinson, 1935) and unrelated to intelligence before 1970 (Nystrom et al., 1990).

(2) Is the relationship stronger in females than males? Because of the strong emphasis on female education and career prospects in advanced postmodern societies, it is possible that the relationship is more negative for females than males in these societies but not necessarily in less developed countries, and especially not in societies such as the Muslim Middle East in which traditional gender roles persist to the present day.

(3) Is there a systematic relationship to the stage of the fertility transition? According to Richard Lynn (1996), the relationship is strongest during the fertility transition. It weakens in posttransitional societies, in which contraceptive habits have percolated through all social classes. This hypothesis predicts an inverted U-shaped relationship between the total fertility rate and the strength of the education-fertility correlation.

Data Sources and Methods

The World Values Survey

The World Values Survey has been performed in 5 waves so far, with the results of the first 4 waves publicly available. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.