Scottish Longitudinal Study
Development & Support Unit
Understanding Recent Fertility Trends in the UK and Improving Methodologies for Fertility Forecasting
Dr. Sindhu Vasireddy, University of St Andrews
Prof. Ann Berrington, University of Southampton
Prof. Hill Kulu, University of St Andrews
Dr. Bernice Kuang, University of Southamptom
The aims of this research project are to examine the significant fluctuations in fertility levels in the UK in the last two decades, to investigate their causes, and to develop improved methodologies for fertility forecasting.
Using high-quality large-scale longitudinal data the project will, first, investigate childbearing trends by birth order in the UK in the last two decades to determine whether the increase and subsequent decline in the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) is attributable to the changes in first, second, third or higher-order births, or all of them. We also investigate whether differences in the TFR between the UK’s constituent countries are the result of differences in the timing of childbearing, variations in levels of childlessness, or different family sizes among mothers.
Second, the project will examine how much of the recent fluctuations in period fertility can be explained by the changes in fertility timing (i.e. women having children later or earlier in their lives), changes in population composition (e.g. increasing number of immigrants and their descendants), or changes in fertility behaviour (i.e. women have fewer or more children).
Third, we will investigate whether certain sub-populations (e.g. educational groups) have changed their fertility behaviour more than others. We will assess whether the empirical evidence is consistent with theoretical expectations on the role that wider social changes, including the family policies introduced in the UK in the late 1990s and economic recession, play in changing fertility levels in the first decades of the 21st century.
Fourth, we will also examine how individuals’ health influences their fertility behaviour using information on self-reported health from the UK’s censuses linked to longitudinal studies.
Finally, the project will propose a novel method to forecast future fertility in the UK. The forecast will draw on the analysis of fertility trends by birth order and will include uncertainty in fertility projections.
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