Universal Versus Economically Polarized Change in Age at First Birth

A French-British Comparison

by Michael S. Rendall, Olivia Ekert-Jaffe, Heather Joshi, Kevin Lynch, Remi Mougin

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France and the United Kingdom represent two contrasting institutional models for the integration of employment and motherhood, respectively the 'universalistic' regime type that offers subsidized child-care and maternity-leave benefits to women at all income levels, and the 'means-testing' regime type that offers predominantly income-tested benefits for single mothers. Using the two countries as comparative case studies, the authors develop and test the hypothesis that the socio-economic gradient of fertility timing has become increasingly mediated by family policy. They hypothesize and find increasing polarization in age at first birth by pre-childbearing occupation between the 1980s and 1990s in the U.K. but not in France. Early first childbearing persisted in the U.K. only among women in low-skill occupations, while shifts towards increasingly late first births occurred in clerical/secretarial occupations and above. Increases in age at first birth occurred across all occupations in France, but this was still much earlier on average than for all but low-skill British mothers.

This paper series made possible by the NIA funded RAND Center for the Study of Aging and the NICHD funded RAND Population Research Center.

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