Maternal and Child Health Journal

, Volume 22, Issue 12, pp 1713–1724 | Cite as

Socioeconomic Position and Reproduction: Findings from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health

  • N. HolowkoEmail author
  • M. Jones
  • L. Tooth
  • I. Koupil
  • G. D. Mishra


Objective: To investigate the association of socioeconomic position (SEP) with reproductive outcomes among Australian women. Methods: Data from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health’s (population-based cohort study) 1973–1978 cohort were used (N = 6899, aged 37–42 years in 2015). The association of SEP (childhood and own, multiple indicators) with age at first birth, birth-to-pregnancy (BTP) intervals and total number of children was analysed using multinomial logistic regression. Results: 14% of women had their first birth aged < 24 years. 29% of multiparous women had a BTP interval within the WHO recommendation (18–27 months). Women with a low SEP had increased odds of a first birth < 24 years: low (OR 7.0: 95% C.I. 5.3, 9.3) or intermediate education (OR 3.8: 2.8, 5.1); living in rural (OR 1.8: 1.5, 2.2) or remote (OR 2.1: 1.7, 2.7) areas; who found it sometimes (OR 1.8: 1.5, 2.2) or always difficult (OR 2.0: 1.6, 2.7) to manage on their income; and did not know their parent’s education (OR 4.5: 3.2, 6.4). Low SEP was associated with having a much longer than recommended BTP interval. Conclusion: As the first Australian study describing social differences in reproductive characteristics, these findings provide a base for reducing social inequalities in reproduction. Assisting adequate BTP spacing is important, particularly for women with existing elevated risks due to social disadvantage; including having a first birth < 24 years of age and a longer than recommended BTP interval. This includes reviewing services/access to postnatal support, free family planning/contraception clinics, and improved family policies.


Socioeconomic position Educational status Reproduction Age at first birth Birth intervals Birth-to-pregnancy interval 



The research on which this paper is based was conducted as part of the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health, the University of Newcastle and the University of Queensland. We are grateful to the Australian Government Department of Health for funding and to the women who provided the survey data. N.H. is supported by the Australian Postgraduate Award scholarship and G.D.M. is supported by the Australian Research Council Future Fellowship (FT120100812). IK is supported by the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare (project 2006-1518). The Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health is funded by the Australian Government Department of Health.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

All authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Longitudinal and Life Course Research, School of Public HealthThe University of QueenslandHerstonAustralia
  2. 2.Centre for Health Equity Studies (CHESS)Stockholm University/Karolinska InstitutetStockholmSweden
  3. 3.Department of Public Health SciencesKarolinska InstitutetStockholmSweden

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