Do income and marriage mediate the relationship between cognitive ability and fertility? Data from Swedish taxation and conscriptions registers for men born 1951-1967
Recent evidence suggests a positive association between fertility and cognitive ability among Swedish men. In this study we use data on 18 birth cohorts of Swedish men to examine whether and how the relationship between cognitive ability and patterns of childbearing are mediated by income, education and marriage histories. We examine whether the expected positive associations between cognitive ability and life course income, can explain this positive association. We also explore the role of marriage for understanding the positive gradient between cognitive ability and male fertility. To address these question we use Swedish population administrative data that holds information on fertility histories, detailed taxation records, and data from conscription registers. We also identify siblings in order to adjust for confounding by shared family background factors. Our results show that while cognitive ability, education, income, marriage, and fertility, are all positively associated with each other, income only explains a part of the observed positive gradient between fertility and cognitive ability. We find that much of the association between cognitive ability and fertility can be explained by marriage, but that a positive association exists among both ever-married and never-married men. Both low income and low cognitive ability are strong predictors of high childlessness and low fertility in our population. The results from the full population persist in the sub-sample of brothers.