Population Research and Policy Review

, Volume 32, Issue 1, pp 47–80

A Closer Look at the Second Demographic Transition in the US: Evidence of Bidirectionality from a Cohort Perspective (1982–2006)


DOI: 10.1007/s11113-012-9257-2

Cite this article as:
Kane, J.B. Popul Res Policy Rev (2013) 32: 47. doi:10.1007/s11113-012-9257-2


Second demographic transition (SDT) theory posits that increased individualism and secularization have contributed to low fertility in Europe, but very little work has directly tested the salience of SDT theory to fertility trends in the US. Using longitudinal data from a nationally representative cohort of women who were followed throughout their reproductive years (National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 cohort, NLSY79), this study examines the role of several key indicators of the SDT (secularization, egalitarianism, religious affiliation, and female participation in the labor market) on fertility behavior over time (1982–2006). Analyses employ Poisson estimation, logistic regression, and cross-lagged structural equation models to observe unidirectional and bidirectional relationships over the reproductive life course. Findings lend support to the relevance of SDT theory in the US but also provide evidence of “American bipolarity” which distinguishes the US from the European case. Furthermore, analyses document the reciprocal nature of these relationships over time which has implications for how we understand these associations at the individual-level.


Second demographic transitionLow fertilityUS fertilityReciprocal models

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Carolina Population CenterUniversity of North CarolinaChapel HillUSA