, Volume 23, Issue 1, pp 41-66

Women’s fertility, religion and education in a low-fertility population: Evidence from South Australia

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The old issue of religion and fertility is examined in relation to women s level of education. In-depth interviews exploring influences on parity for Adelaide parents in 2003–04 suggest that more frequent attendance at religious services in childhood, and affiliation with particular religious denominations, are related to both higher preferred and higher achieved parity, even for women with university education. For some university-educated women, their religious upbringing appears to play a part in negating the traditional relationship between higher education and lower fertility. Quantitative data on religion, fertility and educational level from the 1996 Census for women aged 40–44 in South Australia show that women with No Religion had lower fertility than those With a religion, while university-educated women in New Protestan-New Christian groups had higher fertility than university-educated women in other denominations. The findings provide an understanding of some social conditions that support higher fertility in a low-fertility population. Future fertility research in developed countries should include consideration of the influence of religious affiliation and religiosity at disaggregated levels of inquiry.