Fertility Decision-Making in the UK: Insights from a Qualitative Study among British Men and Women

Mikaela Brough, Paula Sheppard

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Scholars are interested in better understanding the low fertility observed in higher income countries. While some people are choosing to have smaller families, countries also report a ‘fertility gap’, which is the proportion of people who end up with fewer children than originally desired. This paper investigates some causes of the fertility gap in the UK. We amassed qualitative data from seven focus groups conducted among men and women of reproductive age with different educational backgrounds. These focus groups suggest that social support is an influential factor for Britons thinking about having children, although discussions differed in terms of whether this was support from partners or parents. Discussions with university-educated women featured themes of career opportunity costs, and non-university men contributed insights on the financial burden of parenthood. This exploratory study provides up-to-date material on unwanted childlessness and the low fertility in the UK, and highlights the merit of using qualitative methods in understanding the fertility gap.
Original languageEnglish
Article number409
Number of pages22
JournalSocial Sciences
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 7 Sept 2022

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