Scottish Longitudinal Study
Development & Support Unit

Completed Projects

Project Title:

Low fertility in Scotland: An exploration of age at first birth by occupational category and geography

Project Number:



Kevin Ralston (University of Stirling)
Margaret Maxwell (University of Stirling)
Paul Lambert (University of Stirling)

Start Date:

Approved on 06-08-2008


In Scotland the total fertility rate was 1.48 children per woman in 2002, which was well below generational replacement level, lower than that in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, and also lower than the rate in most of European countries. However, it is not clear what socio-economic and geographical factors have given rise to the low fertility in Scotland.

The General Registrars Office (GRO) report for 2006 (GRO Scotland 2007) highlights regional variation in fertility as an issue of interest to researchers. This is echoed by the ESRC who in 2007 issued a statement on the current priorities for research into low fertility in Scotland, suggesting: ‘A deeper understanding of causes of significant spatial variations in fertility within Scotland is needed. Variations: in marital status, qualification, education opportunities, and deprivation)…and also over time, within Scotland’ (ESRC 2007).

Whilst the GRO and ESRC suggest the need to further investigate geographical variation in fertility; there is also an abundance of empirical research showing the importance of class/occupation in fertility outcomes. For example Ekert-Jaffe et al. (2002) in a comparative study relating birth timings to socio-economic status in Britain and France, found that the most important indicator of fertility timing for men is socio-economic classification. The relationship between class/ occupation and fertility within the UK is also noted by Simpson et al. (2006). Simpson compares fertility outcomes for those born in 1958 with those of 1970 and highlights that the highest proportion of childlessness is amongst those whose fathers are from professional and managerial occupations.

The GRO (2007) charts the rising trends in age at first birth by Scottish council areas and Simpson et al. (2006) also highlight this change within the UK. Whilst the empirical importance of class/ occupation as a key determinant of fertility is suggested by Ekert-Jaffe et al. (2002) and Simpson et al. (2006). This research aims to expand upon this by examining age at first birth by social class/occupation within a regional/ urban rural context in Scotland. Without pre-empting findings this research might potentially add to knowledge by, for instance, offering a detailed examination of age at first birth by occupational category by region.

The aim of this project is to investigate the relationship between population mobility, health and area level deprivation and the extent to which selective migration contributes to widening health inequalities in Scotland.


Ekert-Jaffé, O. Joshi, H. Lynch, K. Mougin, R. Rendall, M. & Shapiro, D. (2002) Fertility, Timing of Births and Socio-economic Status in France and Britain: Social Policies and Occupational Polarization. Population (English Edition), 57:3, 475-507.

ESRC (2007) The Demographic Trends in Scotland a Shrinking and Ageing Population. ESRC Seminar Series: Mapping the public policy landscape. Swindon: ESRC.

GRO Scotland (2007) Scotland's Population 2006. The General Registrar's Annual Review of Demographic Trends 152nd Ed. Edinburgh: General Registrar's Office for Scotland.

Simpson, R., Morton, S., & Wasoff, F. (2006) Childbearing on Hold: delayed childbearing and childlessness in Britain. Edinburgh: Centre for Research on Families and Relationships. CRFR Research Briefing.

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