Studying the number of children people want and have


There is huge variation in the number of children people (would like to) have over time / across the globe / within countries. I try to study the determinants of this variation, including individual factors like wealth and education, genetic factors, and social influences.


March 30, 2018

The demographic transition towards low fertility is one of the most remarkable social phenomena in human history from both sociological and evolutionary perspectives. Despite very low fertility in most wealthy population, there is still considerable variation in the number of children that people would like to have and end up having. My research aims to understand whether, when and why people have children using a multidisciplinary and multimethod approach.

For example, I have focussed on the association between wealth and fertility, and why this is important for evolutionary theorising (e.g., here, here and here). Moreover, some of my research has examined to what extent fertility outcomes can be explained by genetic differences between people (e.g., here, here and here). Yet, other research involved examining the postponement of childbearing (e.g., here and here)

More recently, I have focussed particularly on how people’s social networks can influence fertility outcomes (e.g., here, here and here), on microsimulation models of fertility (e.g., here), on the use of natural language processing in quantifying people’s uncertainty about having children (e.g., here), and on how a focus on predicting fertility can advance understanding (e.g., here)

And then there is the following that annoys me at least 3 times a week:

In medicine:

  • fertility - the ability to conceive children
  • fecundity - the ability to produce an abundance of offspring

In demography:

  • fertility - the number of live births of babies to a female
  • fecundity - the physiological ability to have children