How Does Education Affect Fertility? Intentions, Prototypes, and Attitudinal Change

Emily Marshall, University of Michigan
Caroline Sten Hartnett, University of South Carolina

An association between women’s education and fertility is well-established: women with more education have fewer children and start childbearing later, on average, than their less educated peers. However, competing theories posit several mechanisms by which educational enrollment may affect fertility, the relative importance of which remains unclear. This study examines the relationship between educational enrollment and changes in attitudes and prototypes to illuminate the mechanisms by which education affects fertility behavior in a population of college-age U.S. women. We first use changes in measures of young women’s attitudes and beliefs over time to test competing theories of the mechanisms by which educational enrollment may affect fertility. We then test whether enrollment is associated with changes in prototypes, which reflect associations that may not be tied to consciously-held attitudes.

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Presented in Session 61: Changing Fertility Intentions