European Journal of Population

, Volume 31, Issue 4, pp 417–444 | Cite as

Social Background and Becoming a Parent in Sweden: A Register-Based Study of the Effect of Social Background on Childbearing in Sweden

  • Johan DahlbergEmail author


In this study, I introduce three measures of social background, namely occupational class, social status, and parental education, into fertility research. The objective is to examine whether these dimensions of social background affect entry into parenthood even after controlling for several potential pathways. I estimate event history models on first birth rates using data, which include all Swedes born in 1960. The results show that each of the three dimensions of social background has a clear bivariate association with the risk of becoming a parent, both for men and for women. Parental education has the strongest effect of class and status background, and the latter two do not affect the entry into fatherhood when the effects of all dimensions of social background are estimated simultaneously. Much of the remaining association between social background and fertility persists when controlling for own educational history, mother’s age at first birth, and father’s mean incomes. The results also show that higher social background leads to postponement of childbearing but that it has no effect on the final likelihood of ever become a parent. The influence of social background on fertility is stronger for women than for men.


Social background Stratification Intergenerational transmission of fertility Class reproduction 



I thank Juho Härkönen, Gunnar Andersson, Sunnee Billingsley, Elizabeth Thomson, Robert Erikson, and two anonymous reviewers for valuable comments and suggestions. Financial support from the Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet) via the Swedish Initiative for Research on Microdata in the Social and Medical Sciences (SIMSAM): Stockholm University SIMSAM Node for Demographic Research (Grant Registration Number 340-2013-5164) and Linnaeus Center on Social Policy and Family Dynamics in Europe (SPaDE) (Grant 349-2007-8701), and the Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research for Working Life and Social research (Grant 2010-0831) is gratefully acknowledged.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Demography Unit, Department of SociologyStockholm UniversityStockholmSweden

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