Gender Equity, Opportunity Costs of Parenthood, and Educational Differences in Unintended First Births: Insights from Japan

Raymo, James M., Kelly Musick, and Miho Iwasawa
Working paper no. 2014-05


We examine educational differences in the intendedness of first births in Japan using data from a nationally representative survey of married women (N = 2,406). We begin by describing plausible scenarios for a negative, null, and positive educational gradient in unintended first births. In contrast to well-established results from the U.S., we find evidence of a positive educational gradient in Japan. Net of basic demographic controls, we find higher reporting of unintended first births among university graduates relative to less-educated women. This pattern is consistent with a scenario emphasizing the high opportunity costs of motherhood in countries like Japan where growing opportunities for women in employment and other domains of public life have not been accompanied by changes in the highly asymmetric roles of men and women within the family. We discuss potential implications of this suggestive finding for other low-fertility settings.