It is well established that the timing of childbearing is transmitted from parents to children in the United States. However, little is known about how the intergenerational link has changed over time and under structural and ideological transformations associated with fertility behaviors. This study first considers changes across two birth cohorts from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY) in the extent to which parents’ age at first birth is transmitted to their children. The first cohort includes individuals born during the late 1950s through the early 1960s (NLSY79), while the second includes individuals born in the early 1980s (NLSY97). Results from discrete-time event history analyses indicate that the intergenerational transmission of age at first birth significantly increased for both daughters and sons. These results were confirmed by analyses of data from three cycles of the National Survey of Family Growth spanning the same time period. Over this period, age at first childbirth became increasingly younger for children born to teenage mothers and increasingly older for those born to mothers who began parenthood after age 25. These patterns have important implications for the reproductive polarization hypothesis.
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This categorization of the religion in which the respondent was raised is crude. In particular, combining all Protestants into one group may raise concerns given significant heterogeneity in religious ideologies related to fertility behaviors. However, the three data sets in the present study used widely different classifying schemes for religious affiliations. For instance, NLSY79 coded religion into one hundred categories, while NSFG includes only ten. In the absence of consistent criteria for classifying religions, the current study divided the religions into three broad groups in order to enhance the comparability of results across the data sets.
Paul et al. (2008) simulations indicated that, contrary to Allison (2001), considerable bias in coefficients arises when case-wise (i.e., listwise) deletion is used, even under the condition of missing at random. They also found that coefficient bias increases in all imputation techniques, except mean imputation with a dummy variable, with little increase in non-random missingness. Notably, their results show that full Bayesian multiple imputations, one of the most sophisticated methods, performed no better than other imputation techniques.
Despite these concerns, we estimated models with variables related to marriages, but the results were virtually the same as those in the main analysis (results are available upon request).
A comparison of results across alternative specifications of the effect of time, such as cubic, 4th-order, or 5th-order polynomials, indicated better fit to the data for the model including quadratic and linear terms. Substantial heterogeneity in fertility behaviors by sub-populations in English-speaking countries, such as the U.S., U.K., and Ireland, may produce bimodal patterns in the hazard of fertility (Chandola et al. 1999), in which case a curvilinear relationship may not fit the data well. Nonetheless, a quadratic relation is specified in this study for ease of interpretation and consistency with past studies.
Summary statistics are not shown here due to space constraints but these are available upon request.
Hazard functions by FAFB show similar patterns for both samples, but they are not presented here due to trivial effects in the multivariate results. Also note that the NLSY97 cohort was born between 1980 and 1984, and thus the age range of participants was 25–29 as of 2009. Thus, the hazard functions for the NLSY97 are available only up to age 29.
We reestimated the models in Table 1 separately for NLSY79 and NLSY97 without the interaction term between MAFB and cohort, and the results are in accordance with the main results.
As MAFB is measured categorically, its unit is age-group categories rather than continuous years. Initially, MAFB was included as a categorical variable, and we estimated 16 interaction terms with birth cohort. However, according to the Bayesian information criterion (BIC) statistic, models treating MAFB as a continuous variable are favored over those treating it as a categorical variable.
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Kim, K. Intergenerational Transmission of Age at First Birth in the United States: Evidence from Multiple Surveys. Popul Res Policy Rev 33, 649–671 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11113-014-9328-7
- Age at first birth
- Intergenerational transmission
- Transition to parenthood
- Discrete-time event history analysis