Understanding generational differences in early fertility: Proximate and social determinants


Goldberg, Rachel E. (2018). Understanding generational differences in early fertility: Proximate and social determinants. Journal of Marriage and Family. vol. 80 (5) pp. 1225-1243


Objective This study investigated: (1) differences by generational status in the risk of early childbearing; (2) to what extent observed differences reflected timing of sexual onset versus postonset proximate determinants like contraceptive use; and (3) the influence of individual-, family-, and neighborhood-level social factors. Background Although U.S. rates of early fertility have declined, they remain high relative to other high-income countries, and disparities by population group persist. The share of the youth population with immigrant parents has expanded greatly, yet relatively little is known about generational variations in early fertility. Method This study used Wave 1–4 data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (N=8,777 women). To distinguish between the sexual onset and fertility processes, a sequential hazard framework modelled: 1) the transition to sexual activity, and 2) the transition to first birth among women who had initiated sexual activity. Results Foreign-born and second-generation young women initiated both sexual activity and childbearing later than those with U.S.-born parents. Sequential hazard models revealed the importance of later sexual onset in explaining delayed fertility among the foreign-born, and of family attributes for their later sexual onset. Postonset behaviors were essential to the delayed childbearing observed among the second generation. Conclusion Important differences by generational status exist in both the proximate determinants and the social factors underlying children of immigrants' lower risk of early fertility.



Reference Type

Journal Article

Journal Title

Journal of Marriage and Family


Goldberg, Rachel E.

Year Published


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June 19, 2018



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