Modelling the socio-economic determinants of fertility: A mediation analysis using the parametric g-formula

Maarten J. Bijlsma*, Ben Wilson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
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Theories predict that the timing of childbearing and number of children born are determined by multiple socio-economic factors. Despite this, many methods cannot investigate the interrelationships between these determinants, including the direct and indirect influence that they have on fertility over the life course. Here we use the parametric g-formula to examine the interdependent influences of time-varying socio-economic processes—education, employment status and partnership status—on fertility. To demonstrate this approach, we study a cohort of women who were born in the UK in 1970. Our results show that socio-economic processes play an important role in determining fertility, not only directly but also indirectly. We show that increasing attendance in higher education has a largely direct effect on early childbearing up to age 25 years, resulting in a substantial increase in childlessness. However, childbearing at later ages is dominated by an indirect effect of education on fertility, via partnership status and employment status, that is twice as large as the direct effect. We also use the g-formula to examine bias due to unobserved heterogeneity, and we demonstrate that our results appear to be robust. We conclude that the method provides a valuable tool for mediation analysis in studies of interdependent life course processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)493-513
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of the Royal Statistical Society. Series A: Statistics in Society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb-2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Fertility
  • g-formula
  • Mediation
  • Socio-economic determinants

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