Population Research and Policy Review

, Volume 34, Issue 2, pp 179–199 | Cite as

Gender Equity, Opportunity Costs of Parenthood, and Educational Differences in Unintended First Births: Insights from Japan

  • James M. RaymoEmail author
  • Kelly Musick
  • Miho Iwasawa


We examine educational differences in the intendedness of first births in Japan using data from a nationally representative survey of married women (N = 2,373). We begin by describing plausible scenarios for a negative, null, and positive educational gradient in unintended first births. In contrast to well-established results from the U.S., we find evidence of a positive educational gradient in Japan. Net of basic demographic controls, university graduates are more likely than less-educated women to report first births as unintended. This pattern is consistent with a scenario emphasizing the high opportunity costs of motherhood in countries such as Japan where growing opportunities for women in employment and other domains of public life have not been accompanied by changes in the highly asymmetric roles of men and women within the family. We discuss potential implications of this suggestive finding for other low-fertility settings.


Low fertility Unintended fertility Gender and family roles Japan 



The authors gratefully acknowledge support from the Center for Demography and Ecology (R24HD047873) and the Cornell Population Center (5R24HD058488), both funded through grants from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute for Child Health and Human Development. Permission to use data from the National Fertility Surveys was obtained through the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research on the basis of the Statistics Act (Act No. 53 of 2007), Article 32.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology and Center for Demography and EcologyUniversity of WisconsinMadisonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Policy Analysis and Management and Cornell Population CenterCornell UniversityIthacaUSA
  3. 3.National Institute of Social Security and Population ResearchTokyoJapan

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