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Fertility by Educational Attainment


A report by the Census Bureau titled, Fertility of Women in the United States: 2012 describes the characteristics of mothers by variables such as race, location, and age. The factor that this post will focus on is educational attainment.

One measure that the report uses is completed fertility for women aged 40-50. Since most women are done having children by around 40, this table shows how many children a typical woman has had in her lifetime. This data is separated by education cohort. (I can’t figure out how to insert excel graphs into the post. So refer to table 2 on the pdf linked at the bottom) The table shows that as education increases, births per 1,000 women decreases. When you transform the data to births per woman, you can see that women with no high school diploma have on average 0.9 more children than women with professional or graduate degrees.

…fertility affects future growth…

Another interesting chart is figure three. For each five year age range starting at 15, the graph shows how birth rates change with education. For women under 30 years old, those with a high school diploma or less have much higher birth rates than the other levels. However,  once you pass age 30, women with Bachelor’s degrees have the highest fertility rates.

Thus, women with little education tend to have more children and have them earlier in life compared to those with more education.

Census Report


  1. Very interesting. I’ll show in class how to manipulate WordPress.

    So is there any evidence that birth rates in the US might rise? How does the realized fertility of older cohorts compare to that of younger ones?

    To the rest of the class: other things that stand out in the data?

  2. strauss strauss

    Last year the US birth rate rose by 1% compared to 2013. It was the first increase since 2007, when birth rates decreased with the slowing economy. It’s possible that there will be an increase in the US birth rate over the next couple years as couples have children they originally planned on having during the downterm, so the birth rate could be playing “catch up” for the next couple years.

    • Interesting, but I’d like to have age-specific birthrates as my metric, rather than a single number. The NPR report doesn’t provide much detail, but it looks like they are simply using the number of births per population, a not very helpful metric.

      Now the data should be available – I’m downloading a bunch of xlsx spreadsheets from here: – ah, nothing beyond what we looked at in class, I didn’t see detail to separate an increase from (age-specific) fertility from an increase in births due to shifts in the number of women in child-bearing age brackets.

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