The Future of American Fertility

Samuel H. Preston, Caroline Sten Hartnett

NBER Working Paper No. 14498
Issued in November 2008
NBER Program(s):Aging, Children

This paper reviews the major social and demographic forces influencing American fertility levels with the aim of predicting changes during the next three decades. Increases in the Hispanic population and in educational attainment are expected to have modest and offsetting effects on fertility levels. A cessation of the recent pattern of increasing ages at childbearing will at some point put upward pressure on period (but not cohort) fertility rates. Higher relative wages for women and better contraception have empowered women and fundamentally altered marriage and relations between the sexes. But women's childbearing has become less dependent upon stable relations with men, and educational differences in intended fertility have narrowed. One explanation of higher fertility in the U.S. than in other developed countries is that its institutions have adapted better to rising relative wages for women and the attendant increase in women's labor force participation.

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A non-technical summary of this paper is available in the 2008 number 4 issue of the NBER Bulletin on Aging and Health. You can sign up to receive the NBER Bulletin on Aging and Health by email.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w14498

Published: The Future of American Fertility, Samuel H. Preston, Caroline Sten Hartnett. in Demography and the Economy, Shoven. 2011

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