Why fertility levels vary between urban and rural areas

Hill Kulu, University of Liverpool

While many studies show persistent urban-rural fertility variation in industrialised countries, the causes of this variation have been little investigated. Using rich longitudinal register data from Finland, we examine the relative contribution of socio-economic characteristics of population, selective migrations, housing conditions and contextual factors to fertility variation across settlements. Our analysis shows that fertility levels are the highest in small towns and rural areas and the lowest in the capital city, as expected. The socio-economic characteristics of women and selective migrations account for only a small portion of fertility variation across settlements. Housing conditions explain a significant portion of spatial variation in the first-birth levels, but they account for little variation in the second and third-birth levels. Significant spatial fertility variation after controlling for housing conditions suggests that there are also contextual effects. We discuss the role of various contextual characteristics in explaining urban-rural fertility variation; these include the direct and indirect costs of raising children, the spread of voluntary childlessness in cities and ‘family-oriented’ subcultures in rural areas and small towns.

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Presented in Session 86: National and sub-national norms and attitudes and fertility

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