Fertility Choice and Intelligence in Developed Countries

Work in progress

Nurfatima Jandarova

Michele Boldrin

Aldo Rustichini

We document that fertility may be negatively associated, at least in advanced societies, with higher intelligence, particularly for women. An explanation of the finding is provided in a model describing the choice of individuals (in particular women) facing a trade-off between parenthood and career concerns. With positive complementarity between intelligence and effort in education and career advancement, higher intelligence individuals, particularly women, will sacrifice parenthood to education. Thus, current education and labor market policies may be imposing an uneven penalty on more talented women. We test and find support for the model in a large data set for the UK (Understanding Society), using several alternative measures of fertility. Our results provide a new interpretation of the well documented fact in demographic studies that education is negatively associated with fertility: it is not education as an outcome, but as an aspiration that reduces fertility.