Timing of first birth and education in Mexico : an analysis of three cohorts




Hubert Lopez, Celia

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A common pattern observed around the world is the delayed onset of childbearing among women in populations with increasing educational levels. In Mexico, the median age at first birth appears to have remained stable for the past 40 years, despite continuous efforts to expand education. The lack of a population-level association between educational expansion and the timing of fertility in Mexico occurred as fertility fell sharply and contraception became widely available across the country. The main purpose of this dissertation is to analyze the relationship between education and first birth timing for women and men from three different birth cohorts in Mexico. First, using multivariate decomposition, I estimate the relative contribution of changes in educational composition and changes in the effect of education on age at first birth in the likelihood of having a first birth. Then, I explore whether enrollment inhibits transitions into parenthood taking a discrete-time event history analysis approach. Finally, I observe differences in the time elapsed between leaving education and having a first birth between men and women, between cohorts and between different levels of educational attainment. For these analyses, I used the Mexican Retrospective Demographic Survey 2011 which is representative of the urban population of Mexico. This survey collected six specific life histories for men and women from three different birth cohorts that lived through different stages of the educational expansion. The multivariate decomposition results show that having attained more years of education would have reduced the probabilities of having a first birth, which provides evidence that the expansion of education contributed to the postponement of childbearing. The empirical results of the second analysis provide evidence that being enrolled in school indeed has a protective effect; however, there is also evidence that below normal progress in the school system reduces this protection. The third analysis shows that the interval between leaving education and entering into parenthood changed across the observed cohorts. College educated women and men in younger cohorts have lengthened the interval between leaving education and entering parenthood whereas their less educated counterparts shortened it. The stable median age at first birth seems to be an artifact of an unequal society in which disadvantaged women have been entering into motherhood earlier than advantaged women with access to higher levels of education and relatively equal access to lower levels of education has not been able to reduce these inequalities. The slow pace of the educational expansion process, its focus on basic education, and the stratification of higher levels of education might explain the stable median age at first birth. Additionally, the stable probabilities of having a first birth among teenagers observed across cohorts may also contribute to the stability of the median age at first birth.




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