Rendall M, Ekert-Jaffe O, Joshi H, Lynch K, Mougin R. Universal versus economically polarized change in age at first birth: a French-British comparison. Population & Development Review 2009; 35 (1): 89-115
France and Britain in the 1980s and 1990s represented two contrasting institutional models for the integration of employment and motherhood: the “universalistic” regime in France offered subsidized childcare and maternity-leave benefits at all income levels; the “means-tested” regime in Britain mainly offered income-tested benefits for single mothers. Comparing the two countries, we test the hypothesis that the socioeconomic gradient of fertility timing has become increasingly mediated by family policy. We find increasing polarization in women's age at first birth by pre-childbearing occupation in Britain but not in France. Early first births persisted in Britain only among women in low-skill occupations, while shifts toward increasingly late first births occurred in clerical/secretarial occupations and higher occupational groups. Age at first birth increased across all occupations in France, but age at first birth in France was still much earlier on average than for all but low-skill British mothers.