Abstract

This paper presents estimates of delayed childbearing and permanent childlessness in the United States and the determinants of those phenomena. The estimates are derived by fitting the Coale-McNeil marriage model to survey data on age at first birth and by letting the parameters of the model depend on covariates. Substantively, the results provide evidence that the low first birth fertility rates experienced in the 1970s were due to both delayed childbearing and to increasing levels of permanent childlessness. The results also indicate that (a) delayed childbearing is less prevalent among black women than among nonblack women; (b) education is an important determinant of delayed childbearing whose influence on this phenomenon seems to be increasing across cohorts; (c) education is positively associated with heterogeneity among women in their age at first birth; (d) the dispersion of age at first birth is increasing across cohorts; (e) race has an insignificant effect on childlessness; and (f) education is positively associated with childlessness, with the effect of education increasing and reaching strikingly high levels for the most recent cohorts.

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