Female Educational Attainment and Expansion in Latin America: Heterogeneity of the Direct and Indirect Effects on Fertility

Lucrecia Mena-Meléndez , University of California, Los Angeles

Educational attainment of women in Latin America has substantially improved in the past decades. Inversely, fertility has been declining sharply. However, few studies have assessed heterogeneity at the individual, regional, and country level, especially in Latin America. I use all Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) data for ten Latin American countries between 1986 and 2015. To build on this research gap, I assess the direct mechanisms, indirect “spillover” and “diminished selectivity” effects, and regional and country variations of this relationship. Preliminary findings suggest that higher female education is associated with decreasing fertility through the cognitive, socioeconomic, and normative pathways. In addition, while cross-regional and cross-country variation exists in this relationship, it gets attenuated by individual level characteristics. Finally, past educational expansion has resulted in heterogeneity at both ends of the education spectrum, producing indirect “spillover” and “diminished selectivity” effects among women with very low and very high levels of education.

See paper

 Presented in Session 1. Fertility, Family Planning, Sexual Behavior, & Reproductive Health 1