Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


This research examines factors associated with the timing and risk of first and second births in Canada, focusing primarily on the role of women's educational attainment. A major theme is that fundamental changes in recent years, not only in the duration of education, but also in the content and social significance of formal schooling, have resulted in changes in the strength and nature of the basic association across successive birth cohorts of women. The Accelerated Failure Time Model (AFT) is applied to data from the 1984 Canadian Fertility Survey (CFS) in order to determine how educational attainment, estimated as closely as possible to the dates of both first and second births, influences the timing of childbearing and whether the importance of this variable varies according to birth cohorts. Two parallel multivariate models are estimated, measuring women's education with both four and three categories or levels, in order to examine possible changes over time in the significance of certain thresholds of attainment. The results suggest that, among a number of variables useful for distinguishing different levels of risk, educational attainment is an important predictor of birth timing. Its effects, however, are largely dependent on birth order and also on membership in a particular birth cohort to some extent. Patterns of influence also differ between the models using education with three and four categories, indicating shifts over time in the significance for fertility behavior of a given duration (or quantity) of formal schooling. In general, higher education is seen to exert a positive or delaying influence on birth timing (or a reduction in risk) for women of most age groups and birth orders, although its statistical significance is confined mostly to predicting the first birth event. As expected, certain cohort variations are also evident, most notably in the case of first birth, where the overall pattern appears to involve a relative increase across cohorts in the delaying or decelerating effect of higher educational attainment on birth timing. This general trend may be interpreted as resulting from changes in the content and socioeconomic significance of formal schooling over the past few decades which have worked to increase the delaying impact of educational achievement on women's timing of births. Implications of the findings for policy and research are discussed.



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