Family-Level Continuities in Childbearing in Low-Fertility Societies

  • Michael Murphy
  • Duolao Wang


A number of studies of populations in earlier generations haveshown that fertility patterns of parents and children arepositively correlated, although the relationship is frequentlydesignated as `weak'. Models that may be used to investigate theways in which patterns of demographic behaviour persist betweengenerations are considered. The principal frameworks used arefitting of simulation and multi-level models. The data sourcesutilised are the 1986 ISSP co-ordinated series of surveys onsocial networks, the country files for Italy, Norway and Polandfrom the UNECE co-ordinated FFS programme, and the US NationalSurvey of Families and Households which contains particularlyrich information on the experience of demographic events acrossdifferent generations. We find that the relationship betweenfertility of successive generations is becoming stronger withtime, and that it is now of a comparable order of magnitude towidely-used conventional covariates such as educational level. This intergenerational relationship cannot be explained bydifferential fertility across socio-economic groups. Reasons whythe strength of the relationship has been understated and theimplications of results from such analyses are discussed.


Educational Level Public Finance Early Generation Successive Generation Demographic Event 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Anderton, D. L., Tsuya, N. O., Bean, L. L. and Mineau, G. P., 1987. 'Intergenerational transmission of relative fertility and life course patterns', Demography 24: 467–480.Google Scholar
  2. Berent, J., 1953. 'Relationship between family sizes of the successive generations', Milbank Memorial Fund Quarterly Bulletin 31: 39–50.Google Scholar
  3. Bumpass, L. L. and Kelly Raley, R., 1995. 'Redefining single-parent families: cohabitation and changing family reality', Demography 32(1): 97–109.Google Scholar
  4. Easterlin, R. A., 1980. Birth and Fortune: The Impact of Numbers on Personal Welfare. Basic Books, New York.Google Scholar
  5. Finch, J., 1989. 'Kinship and friendship', in R. Jowell, S. Witherspoon and L. Brook (eds), British Social Attitudes: Special International Report. Gower, Aldershot, 87–103.Google Scholar
  6. Goldstein, H., 1995. Multilevel Statistical Models, 2nd edn. Edward Arnold, London.Google Scholar
  7. Hastie, T. and Tibsharani, R., 1990. Generalised Additive Models. Chapman and Hall, London.Google Scholar
  8. Höllinger, F. and Haller, M., 1990. 'Kinship and social networks in modern societies: a cross-national comparison among seven nations', European Sociological Review 6(2): 103–124.Google Scholar
  9. Johnson, J. and Stokes, C. S., 1976. 'Family size in successive generations. The effects of birth order, intergenerational change in life styles, and familial satisfaction', Demography 13: 175–187.Google Scholar
  10. Kantner, J. F. and Potter, R.G., 1954. 'social and psychological factors affecting fertility: XXIV. The relationship of family size in two successive generations', Milbank Memorial Fund Quarterly 32: 294–311.Google Scholar
  11. Kohler, H-P., Rodgers, J. L. and Christensen, K., 1999. 'Is fertility behavior in our genes? Findings from a Danish twin study', Population and Development Review 25: 253–288.Google Scholar
  12. Mayer, K-U., Featherman, D. L., Kelvin Selber, L. and Colbjørnsen, T., 1989. 'Class mobility during the working life: a comparison of Germany and Norway', in M. L. Kohn (ed), Cross-National Research in Sociology. Sage Publications, Newbury Park, 218–239.Google Scholar
  13. McDaniel, A., 1996. 'Fertility and racial stratification', in J. B. Casterline, R. D. Lee and K. A. Foote (eds), Fertility in the United States: New policies, New Theories. Supplement to Population and Development Review 22. New York: The Population Council, New York, 134–150.Google Scholar
  14. Murphy, M., 1987. 'Differential family formation in Great Britain', Journal of Biosocial Science 19: 463–485.Google Scholar
  15. Murphy, M., 1999, 'Is the relationship between fertility of parents and children really weak?', Social Biology 46(1–2): 122–145.Google Scholar
  16. Murphy, M. and Sullivan, O., 1985. 'Housing tenure and family formation in contemporary Britain', European Sociological Review 1: 230–243.Google Scholar
  17. Murphy, M. and Wang, D., 1998. 'Demographic and socio-economic influences on patterns of leaving home in postwar Britain', Demography 35(3): 293–305.Google Scholar
  18. Pearson, K. and Lee, A., 1899. 'On the inheritance of fertility in mankind', Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series A 192: 282–330.Google Scholar
  19. Preston, S. H., 1976. 'Family sizes of children and family sizes of women', Demography 13: 105–114.Google Scholar
  20. Prioux, F., 1993. 'Aspects régionaux de la formation de la famille et de l'illégitimité en Autriche', Population (May-June) 48(3): 711–734.Google Scholar
  21. Pullum, T. W. and Wolf, D. A., 1991. 'Correlations between frequencies of kin', Demography 28: 391–409.Google Scholar
  22. Schafer, J. L., 1997. Analysis of Incomplete Multivariate Data. Chapman and Hall, London.Google Scholar
  23. Sulloway, F., 1996. Born to Rebel. Little Brown and Co., London.Google Scholar
  24. Wang, D. and Murphy, M., 1998. 'Covariates of infant mortality in China: an exploratory approach', Social Biology 45: 21–38.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Population Studies, Department of Social PolicyLondon School of EconomicsLondonUK
  2. 2.Population Studies, Department of Social PolicyLondon School of EconomicsLondonUK

Personalised recommendations