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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

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..

Suggested Citation

  • Hans-Peter Kohler & Joseph L. Rodgers & Kaare Christensen, 1999. "Is Fertility Behavior in Our Genes? Findings from a Danish Twin Study," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 25(2), pages 253-288.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:popdev:v:25:y:1999:i:2:p:253-288
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    Cited by:

    1. Francesco C. Billari & Vincenzo Galasso, 2008. "What Explains Fertility? Evidence from Italian Pension Reforms," CSEF Working Papers 209, Centre for Studies in Economics and Finance (CSEF), University of Naples, Italy.
    2. Galor, Oded & Michalopoulos, Stelios, 2012. "Evolution and the growth process: Natural selection of entrepreneurial traits," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 147(2), pages 759-780.
    3. 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.
    4. Alison L. Booth & Hiau Joo Kee, 2009. "Intergenerational Transmission of Fertility Patterns," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 71(2), pages 183-208, April.
    5. Johannes Huinink & Martin Kohli & Jens Ehrhardt, 2015. "Explaining fertility: The potential for integrative approaches," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 33(4), pages 93-112, July.
    6. Felix C. Tropf & Jornt J. Mandemakers, 2017. "Is the Association Between Education and Fertility Postponement Causal? The Role of Family Background Factors," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 54(1), pages 71-91, February.
    7. Sara Cools & Rannveig Kaldager Hart, 2017. "The Effect of Childhood Family Size on Fertility in Adulthood: New Evidence From IV Estimation," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 54(1), pages 23-44, February.
    8. Oded Galor & Omer Moav, 2004. "Natural Selection and the Evolution of Life Expectancy," GE, Growth, Math methods 0409004, EconWPA.
    9. Keuntae Kim, 2014. "Intergenerational Transmission of Age at First Birth in the United States: Evidence from Multiple Surveys," Population Research and Policy Review, Springer;Southern Demographic Association (SDA), vol. 33(5), pages 649-671, October.
    10. 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.
    11. Marcel Raab & Anette Fasang & Aleksi Karhula & Jani Erola, 2014. "Sibling Similarity in Family Formation," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 51(6), pages 2127-2154, December.
    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;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 50(4), pages 1399-1420, August.
    13. repec:spr:qualqt:v:51:y:2017:i:5:d:10.1007_s11135-016-0388-0 is not listed on IDEAS
    14. 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.
    15. Lara Patrício Tavares, 2016. "Who Delays Childbearing? The Associations Between Time to First Birth, Personality Traits and Education," European Journal of Population, Springer;European Association for Population Studies, vol. 32(4), pages 575-597, October.
    16. Maria Rita Testa & Valeria Bordone & Beata Osiewalska & Vegard Skirbekk, 2016. "Are daughters’ childbearing intentions related to their mothers’ socio-economic status?," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 35(21), pages 581-616, September.
    17. 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;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 48(4), pages 1347-1375, November.
    18. Galor, Oded & Michalopoulos, Stelios, 2006. "The Evolution of Entrepreneurial Spirit and the Process of Development," CEPR Discussion Papers 6022, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    19. Gianpiero DALLA ZUANNA & Roberto IMPICCIATORE, 2008. "Fertility and education in contemporary Northern and Southern Italy," Departmental Working Papers 2008-09, Department of Economics, Management and Quantitative Methods at Università degli Studi di Milano, revised 06 Dec 2010.
    20. 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.
    21. 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.
    22. 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.
    23. Francesca Luppi, 2016. "When is the Second One Coming? The Effect of Couple’s Subjective Well-Being Following the Onset of Parenthood," European Journal of Population, Springer;European Association for Population Studies, vol. 32(3), pages 421-444, August.

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