Educated women generally have fewer children than uneducated women. This negative relationship is strong and varies across both developed and developing countries (measured by GDP per capita) and among women of different education levels. This is not surprising, since countries differ in their various institutional aspects, including education quality.
Different education levels can generate different kinds of incentives. For example, better-educated women tend to have better jobs and earn higher incomes: women with primary education tend to have 0–30% fewer children than uneducated women (ratio of total fertility rate of 1 to 0.7).
The differential, if any, tends to widen as income increases. Women with secondary education tend to have 10–50% fewer children than those with primary education (ratio of total fertility rate of 0.9 to 0.5), with gaps narrowing as income increases.
Three mechanisms influence the fertility decision of educated women:
The relatively higher incomes and thus higher income forgone due to childbearing leads them to want fewer children. The better care these women give increases their children’s human capital and reduces the economic need for more children.
The positive health impacts of education, on both women and their children, mean women are better able to give birth and children’s higher survival rate reduces the desire for more.
The knowledge impact of education means women are better at using contraceptives.