This paper examines the ways in which the behavior of twentieth century cohorts of American women changed simultaneously in the three components of fertility that determine age at last birth—age at first birth, spacing between subsequent births, and parity progression ratios of subsequent births—to produce changes in the timing of the completion of childbearing. It decomposes changes in the mean age at last birth among cohorts and between whites and nonwhites to changes in these three components. To perform these analyses, we developed and applied a method to estimate the distributions and means of ages at first and last births, birth intervals, and parity progression ratios from age- and parity-specific fertility rates available from vital statistics data. Results show that the cohorts increased and decreased their age at first birth, birth intervals, and parity progression ratios of lower and higher birth orders in almost every possible combination so as to achieve a relatively young age at final birth.

The text of this article is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.