The recuperation of fertility at older ages in Britain: evidence from the 1958 British birth cohort

Ann M. Berrington, University of Southampton
Serena Pattaro, University of Southampton

This paper investigates the factors associated with the postponement and recuperation of childbearing in Britain. First, the paper uses aggregate data from vital registration statistics to examine trends in the timing and quantum of fertility among British birth cohorts from 1940 to 1963. Then, the paper investigates, at the individual level, the demographic and socio-economic factors associated with recuperation among one specific birth cohort. Patterns of childbearing in Britain have changed dramatically over the past 50 years, including an increase in the average age at entry into motherhood, increases in childbearing rates at older ages and an increase in childlessness (Kneale and Joshi, 2008; Sigle Rushton, 2008). However, most recent estimates of cohort fertility suggest that the postponement of fertility may have stabalized, with the 1980 birth cohort experiencing higher fertility rates in their late twenties than was the case for those born in 1975 (ONS, 2009). Fertility patterns in Britain are characterised by large educational differences in the timing of entry into childbearing (Rendall and Smallwood, 2003) and the percentage remaining childless (Berrington, 2004). In this paper we investigate these educational differences for women born in Britain in one week of March 1958 who have been followed up since birth within the National Child Development Study (NCDS). The NCDS is unique in that it provides information on the respondent’s fertility intentions recorded at ages 23, 33 and 42 with observed fertility through to age 50. At each sweep of the study a wealth of other demographic and socio-economic information (such as partnership and employment status) is available. Hence we can extend previous work (Berrington, 2004) examining, in a prospective framework, the relationship between fertility intentions and childbearing outcomes between ages 23 and 33, ages 33 and 42 and ages 42 and 46.

Presented in Poster Session 1