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JSPES, Vol. 33, No. 2 (Summer 2008)
pp. 205-227

How Universal is the Negative Correlation between Education and Fertility?

Gerhard Meisenberg

Ross University School of Medicine, Dominica

A negative correlation between education and fertility has been described with great regularity in modern societies. The present investigation examines the strength of this relationship with data from the 1990, 1995 and 2000 waves of the World Values Survey covering 78 countries with a combined sample size of up to 181,728 respondents. The negative correlation is present in nearly all countries, is stronger in females than males, is greater for educational level than for length of schooling, and is not mediated by personal wealth. It is strongest at relatively low levels of economic, social and cognitive development and becomes weaker in the most advanced societies. However, it is also less than maximal in the least developed countries. The relationship is strongest in Latin America and the Middle East, where the typical correlations for cohorts with completed fertility are -.31 for females and -.24 for males, and weakest in Protestant Europe, where average correlations are -.10 for females and -.01 for males. The negative relationship persists in the younger generation of advanced societies, who are reproducing under conditions of sub-replacement fertility.