The fertility decline, which started first in developed countries, has been observed among most developing countries since the latter half of the 20th century. On the other hand, among developed countries, the long-lasting decline of fertility seems to have stopped in recent decades, and a modest recovery of fertility has been observed in most countries. A large number of studies focusing on the relationship between fertility and gender equality have been conducted. However, gender equality is composed of various aspects, and the relationship between fertility and gender equality could be different at different levels of economic development.
This study aims to empirically examine the relationship between fertility and gender equality according to countries’ different income levels, using the integrated framework for both the fertility decline in developing countries and the fertility recovery in developed countries. This study employs the panel dataset including fertility and the GGGI (Global Gender Gap Index) published annually by the World Economic Forum.
The main findings of this study are as follows: First, this study observes the inverse J-shaped relationship between fertility and the progress of overall gender equality measured by the GGGI. This means that progress toward gender equality has a negative relationship with fertility until a certain level of development is achieved, at which point the relationship becomes positive. The inverse J-relationship is also found between fertility and the progress toward gender equality in the economy. Second, in the “low-income and modest decline of fertility” country group, where the average total fertility rate was still over 5 in 2015, the progress in overall gender equality and in gender equality in the economy do not have a particular relationship with fertility. In contrast, female life expectancy is positively correlated to fertility. Third, the progress in gender equality in literacy is important for lowering fertility regardless of income level. In middle-income countries, progress in gender equality in school enrolment is negatively correlated with fertility in all education levels.
Keywords: fertility; gender equality, Global Gender Gap Index, income level