The total fertility rate has remained virtually unchanged over the past 15 years. Using vital registration data and Current Population Survey (CPS) data, our proposed research will examine below the flat terrain suggested by the total fertility rate and describe important change taking place in the social substrata defined by age, parity, race, education and marital status. Our research places special emphasis on the timing of the first birth because historically it has been the dominant demographic component of fertility change. But the timing of second and third births will also be studied, as will the effects of first birth timing on the pace of subsequent fertility and completed family size. Using vital registration data for whites, the 1980s can be characterized by continued 'delayed childbearing' among women in their 20s and some 'catching up' (e.g., higher fertility) among women in their 30s. To better understand recent fertility increases among older women, we will closely study a group whose behavior typifies these changes -- the high school class of 1972. Using six rounds of data collected from men and women in the National Longitudinal Study of the High School Class of 1972, we will test a series of hypotheses about factors promoting and retarding the transition to parenthood, focusing on the ages 25-32. We will test if the same factors which predict first birth timing also predict which men and women will proceed more quickly to have a second and third birth. We will also devote special attention to racial differences. We will document racial divergence in first-birth timing using vital registration data and retrospective data from the 1980, 1985 and 1990 CPS. Interest focuses on differential racial trends by education and martial status. One hypothesis for the racial differences proposes that marriage is a 'parenthood license' for most whites but that this is less true for African Americans. As a result African Americans have fewer preconditions to satisfy prior to becoming parents. Such an explanation suggests that racial differences will be concentrated in nonmarital fertility. Another hypothesis to be tested predicts the greatest racial difference among the most educated.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Research Project (R01)
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Social Sciences and Population Study Section (SSP)
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University of Pennsylvania
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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Morgan, S P; Rindfuss, R R (1999) Reexamining the link of early childbearing to marriage and to subsequent fertility. Demography 36:59-75
Rindfuss, R R; Morgan, S P; Offutt, K (1996) Education and the changing age pattern of American fertility: 1963-1989. Demography 33:277-90
Smith, H L; Morgan, S P; Koropeckyj-Cox, T (1996) A decomposition of trends in the nonmarital fertility ratios of blacks and whites in the United States, 1960-1992. Demography 33:141-51