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Childbearing postponement and child well-being: a complex and varied relationship?

Goisis, Alice and Sigle, Wendy ORCID: 0000-0002-8450-960X (2014) Childbearing postponement and child well-being: a complex and varied relationship? Demography, 51 (5). pp. 1821-1841. ISSN 0070-3370

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Identification Number: 10.1007/s13524-014-0335-4


Over the past several decades, U.S. fertility has followed a trend toward the postponement of motherhood. The socioeconomic causes and consequences of this trend have been the focus of attention in the demographic literature. Given the socioeconomic advantages of those who postpone having children, some authors have argued that the disadvantage experienced by certain groups would be reduced if they postponed their births. The weathering hypothesis literature, by integrating a biosocial perspective, complicates this argument and posits that the costs and benefits of postponement may vary systematically across population subgroups. In particular, the literature on the weathering hypothesis argues that as a consequence of their unique experiences of racism and disadvantage, African American women may experience a more rapid deterioration of their health, which could offset or eventually reverse any socioeconomic benefit of postponement. But because very few African American women postpone motherhood, efforts to find compelling evidence to support the arguments of this perspective rely on a strategy of comparison that is problematic because a potentially selected group of older black mothers are used to represent the costs of postponement. This might explain why the weathering hypothesis has played a rather limited role in the way demographers conceptualize postponement and its consequences for well-being. In order to explore the potential utility of this perspective, we turn our attention to the UK context. Because first-birth fertility schedules are similar for black and white women, we can observe (rather than assume) whether the meaning and consequences of postponement vary across these population subgroups. The results, obtained using linked UK census and birth record data, reveal evidence consistent with the weathering hypothesis in the United Kingdom and lend support to the arguments that the demographic literature would benefit from integrating insights from this biosocial perspective.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2014 Population Association of America
Divisions: Social Policy
Lifecourse, Ageing & Population Health
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
Date Deposited: 19 Sep 2014 08:30
Last Modified: 16 May 2024 01:54
Projects: ESRC ES/H013253/1, ESRC RES-177-25-0016 Children’s Health Disparities in the U.S. and the UK: The Role of the Family, ES/J019119/1
Funders: ESRC, LSE Titmuss Meinhardt

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