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Is Fertility Behavior in Our Genes? Findings from a Danish Twin Study

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  • Hans-Peter Kohler
  • Joseph L. Rodgers
  • Kaare Christensen
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    Abstract

    This article investigates the fertility of Danish twins born during the periods 1870-1910 and 1953-64 in order to pursue two central questions for understanding human reproduction: Do genetic dispositions influence fertility and fertility-related behavior? Does the relevance of the "nature versus nurture" debate shift over time or with demographic regimes? The authors find that genetic influences on fertility exist, but that their relative magnitude and pattern are contingent on gender and on the socioeconomic environment experienced by cohorts. Among females born in 1880-90 and after 1955, about 30-50 percent of the variance in fertility is due to genetic influences; these influences are substantially smaller for earlier and for interim birth cohorts. Male fertility is generally subject to smaller genetic and larger shared-environment effects than female fertility. Because genetic effects are most prevalent in situations with deliberately controlled fertility and relatively egalitarian socioeconomic opportunities, the authors propose that the genetic dispositions affect primarily fertility behavior and motivations for having children. Analyses of fertility motivations, measured by age of first attempt to have a child, support this interpretation. Copyright 1999 by The Population Council, Inc..

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    File URL: http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1728-4457.1999.00253.x
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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by The Population Council, Inc. in its journal Population and Development Review.

    Volume (Year): 25 (1999)
    Issue (Month): 2 ()
    Pages: 253-288

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    Handle: RePEc:bla:popdev:v:25:y:1999:i:2:p:253-288

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    Cited by:
    1. Jere Behrman & Hans-Peter Kohler & Vibeke Jensen & Dorthe Pedersen & Inge Petersen & Paul Bingley & Kaare Christensen, 2011. "Does More Schooling Reduce Hospitalization and Delay Mortality? New Evidence Based on Danish Twins," Demography, Springer, vol. 48(4), pages 1347-1375, November.
    2. Oded Galor & Stelios Michalopoulos, 2011. "Evolution and the Growth Process: Natural Selection of Entrepreneurial Traits," NBER Working Papers 17075, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Hans-Peter Kohler & Lisbeth B. Knudsen & Axel Skytthe & Kaare Christensen, 2002. "The fertility pattern of twins and the general population compared: evidence from Danish cohorts 1945-64," MPIDR Working Papers WP-2002-005, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany.
    4. Oded_Galor & Omer Moav, 2004. "Natural Selection and the Evolution of Life Expectancy," Working Papers 2004-14, Brown University, Department of Economics.
    5. Jan M. Hoem & Margit Strandberg, 2004. "Childbearing patterns for Swedish mothers of twins, 1961-1999," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 11(15), pages 421-454, December.
    6. Oded Galor & Stelios Michalopoulos, 2009. "The Evolution of Entrepreneurial Spirit and the Process of Development," Carlo Alberto Notebooks 111, Collegio Carlo Alberto.
    7. Jason Collins & Oliver Richards, 2013. "Evolution, Fertility and the Ageing Population," Economics Discussion / Working Papers 13-02, The University of Western Australia, Department of Economics.
    8. Hans-Peter Kohler & Lisbeth B. Knudsen & Axel Skytthe & Kaare Christensen, 2002. "The Fertility Pattern of Twins and the General Population Compared: Evidence from Danish Cohorts 1945-64," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 6(14), pages 383-408, May.
    9. Markus Kotte & Volker Ludwig, 2011. "Intergenerational transmission of fertility intentions and behaviour in Germany: the role of contagion," Vienna Yearbook of Population Research, Vienna Institute of Demography (VID) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna, vol. 9(1), pages 207-226.
    10. Laura Stark & Hans-Peter Kohler, 2000. "The public perception and discussion of falling birth rates: the recent debate over low fertility in the popular press," MPIDR Working Papers WP-2000-009, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany.
    11. Booth, Alison L. & Kee, Hiau Joo, 2006. "Intergenerational Transmission of Fertility Patterns in Britain," IZA Discussion Papers 2437, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    12. Jessica Nisén & Pekka Martikainen & Jaakko Kaprio & Karri Silventoinen, 2013. "Educational Differences in Completed Fertility: A Behavioral Genetic Study of Finnish Male and Female Twins," Demography, Springer, vol. 50(4), pages 1399-1420, August.

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