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Human Capital in HistoryThe American Record$
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Leah Platt Boustan, Carola Frydman, and Robert A. Margo

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780226163895

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226163925.001.0001

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Is There a Case for a “Second Demographic Transition”?

Is There a Case for a “Second Demographic Transition”?

Three Distinctive Features of the Post-1960 US Fertility Decline

Chapter:
(p.273) 8 Is There a Case for a “Second Demographic Transition”?
Source:
Human Capital in History
Author(s):

Leah Platt Boustan

Carola Frydman

Robert A. Margo

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226163925.003.0009

Dramatic fertility swings over the last 100 years have been the subject of literatures in demography and economics. Recent research has claimed the post-1960 fertility decline may constitute a “Second Demographic Transition.” However, this rests largely on comparisons of the post-1960 period with the baby boom era, which was exceptional in many ways. Our analysis of the U.S. compares the fertility decline in the 1960s and 1970s to the earlier twentieth century decline, especially the 1920s and 1930s. We find that both periods experienced similar declines in fertility rates and that affected cohorts averaged the same number of children over their lifetimes. In contrast to conventional wisdom, the mean age of household formation (by marriage or non-marital cohabitation) and first birth are almost identical for women reaching childbearing age in the 1920s and 1930s and today. Three features distinguish the post-1960 period: (1) the convergence in the distribution of completed childbearing around a two-child mode and a decrease in childlessness; (2) the decoupling of marriage and motherhood; and (3) a transformation in the relationship between the educational attainment of mothers and childbearing outcomes. These features have implications for children’s opportunities and educational achievement, and widening inequality in U.S. labor markets.

Keywords:   second demographic transition, fertility swings, baby boom, marriage, non-marital cohabitation, childlessness, mother’s educational attainment, children’s educational attainment

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