Review Biodemography of Fertility

Review Biodemography of Fertility

October 14, 2015

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The social sciences have been reticent to integrate a biodemographic approach to the study of fertility choice and behaviour, resulting in theories and findings that are largely socially-deterministic. The aim of this paper is to first reflect on reasons for this lack of integration, provide a review of previous examinations, take stock of what we have learned until now and propose future research frontiers. We review the early foundations of proximate determinants followed by behavioural genetic (family and twin) studies that isolated the extent of genetic influence on fertility traits. We then discuss research that considers gene and environment interaction and the importance of cohort and country-specific estimates, followed by multivariate models that explore motivational precursors to fertility and education. The next section on molecular genetics reviews fertility-related candidate gene studies and their shortcomings and on-going work on genome wide association studies. Work in evolutionary anthropology and biology is then briefly examined, focusing on evidence for natural selection. Biological and genetic factors are relevant in explaining and predicting fertility traits, with socio-environmental factors and their interaction still key in understanding outcomes. Studying the interplay between genes and the environment, new data sources and integration of new methods will be central to understanding and predicting future fertility trends.

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