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Hum Nat. 2006 Dec;17(4):377-92. doi: 10.1007/s12110-006-1001-3.

Do high-status people really have fewer children? : Education, income, and fertility in the contemporary U.S.

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Department of Psychology, Arizona State University, Box 871104, 85287-1104, Tempe, Arizona.
Department of Psychology, Arizona State University, Box 871104, 85287-1104, Tempe, Arizona.


Evolutionary discussions regarding the relationship between social status and fertility in the contemporary U.S. typically claim that the relationship is either negative or absent entirely. The published data on recent generations of Americans upon which such statements rest, however, are solid with respect to women but sparse and equivocal for men. In the current study, we investigate education and income in relation to age at first child, childlessness, and number of children for men and women in two samples-one of the general American population and one of graduates of an elite American university. We find that increased education is strongly associated with delayed childbearing in both sexes and is also moderately associated with decreased completed or near-completed fertility. Women in the general population with higher adult income have fewer children, but this relationship does not hold within all educational groups, including our sample with elite educations. Higher-income men, however, do not have fewer children in the general population and in fact have lower childlessness rates. Further, higher income in men is positively associated with fertility among our sample with elite educations as well as within the general population among those with college educations. Such findings undermine simple statements on the relationship between status and fertility.


Education; Fertility; Income; Status


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