Five years ago, I wrote a paper (pdf) critiquing the idea that HECS contributed to childlessness among female graduates.
Though my conclusion of no effect was supported by an article in the Journal of Population Research last year, using the HILDA survey which has a question on student debt, one of my main theories as to why female graduates have a low average number of children continues to be largely overlooked – and surprisingly so, I think.
My theory turns on the admittedly (and this is why it is surprising) rather obvious point that, despite advances in reproductive medicine, babies are more likely to be born if there is a man in the house, and one likely to stick around long enough to help raise the child. I reported data based on the 1996 census showing that married women in the professional jobs that graduates normally aspire to actually had near-replacement fertility levels. It was the large number of unmarried and childless women pushing down the average.
Unfortunately the marriage factor has been a blind spot in subsequent research that I have seen on this topic. In the Journal of Population Research article they controlled for half a dozen variables, but not whether or not there was a potential father. My suggestion that perhaps one solution to low fertility among female graduates was improved education for boys, to improve the dating market for educated women, was reported as ‘perhaps tongue in cheek’.
Continue reading “Why are men absent from fertility theories?”