Where have all the children gone?: Trends in the childlessness of professional women in Australia

Riyana Miranti, Mandy Yap, Justine McNamara, Robert Tanton

Research output: Contribution to conference (non-published works)Paper


The falling fertility rate in Australia, as in other developed countries, has been the focus of much policy and research interest for some years, particularly in relation to the contribution this makes to an ageing population and the implications of these population changes for intergenerational sustainability. It is well-established that the fertility rate for women with a tertiary education is lower than for women without a tertiary education, however there has been little research examining whether the gap in fertility between women with higher education and in professional occupations and other women has narrowed or widened across time. In this paper, focusing on childlessness only, we use data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics Census for 1986, 1996 and 2006 to explore this question. We examine both working women (using occupational categories) and all women (using educational attainment) aged between 20 and 44. We have focused particularly on women working in, or qualified for, some selected high prestige professions - doctors, lawyers, dentists and vets, as well as on women with other tertiary qualifications and working in other professional or managerial occupations. Our findings suggest that, between 1986 and 2006, childlessness has grown at a slower rate for women with tertiary education than for all women, although these women continue to have the highest rates of childlessness. For working women, rates of childlessness for women in prestige occupations, although still higher than was the case for women in other occupational groups, have grown at a slower rate. This slowing of the growth of childlessness among highly educated professional women has taken place in the context of very much larger numbers of women completing these types of degrees and entering professions over the period of our study.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages39
Publication statusPublished - 2008
EventAustralian Population Association 14th Biennial Conference - Alice Springs, Australia
Duration: 30 Jun 20083 Jul 2008


ConferenceAustralian Population Association 14th Biennial Conference
CityAlice Springs


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