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Why do Fertility Levels Vary between Urban and Rural Areas?

22nd October 2009 3pm, University of Southampton 39/3013

Hill Kulu, University of Liverpool

While many studies show a persistent urban-rural fertility variation in industrialised countries, the causes of this variation have been little investigated. Using rich longitudinal register data from Finland, we examine the contribution of socio-economic characteristics of individuals, selective migrations, housing conditions and contextual factors to fertility variation across settlements. Our analysis shows that fertility levels are higher in small towns and rural areas and lower in cities. Socio-economic characteristics of women and selective migrations account for only a small portion of fertility variation across settlements, whereas housing conditions explain a significant portion of urban-rural fertility differences. A significant spatial fertility variation after controlling for housing conditions suggests that there are also contextual effects. We discuss the role of various contextual characteristics in explaining urban-rural fertility variation including direct and indirect costs of raising children, spread of voluntary childlessness in cities and 'family-oriented' subcultures in rural areas and small towns.