Discussion Papers no. 939

Explaining residential clustering of fertility

Numerous studies have shown that fertility behavior is spatially clustered. In addition to pure context effects, two causal mechanisms could drive this pattern

First, neighbors may influence each other’s fertility behavior, and second, household fertility intentions and behavior may influence residential decisions. This study provides an empirical examination of these two potential causal mechanisms using the sex composition of the two firstborn children and twin births as instrumental variables (IVs) for having a third child. We measure effects of the third child on three separate outcomes: mothers’ propensity to move, characteristics of their final neighborhood, and the fertility of their neighbors. Residential and childbearing histories for the years 2000-2018 are drawn from Norwegian administrative registers (N ~ 167,000 women). Individual neighborhoods are defined using time-varying geo-coordinates on place of residence. We identify selective moves as one plausible causal driver of the residential clustering of fertility. The effects are relatively small, though statistically significant. This suggests that the residential clustering of fertility is also driven by factors that we effectively control for in our design – most importantly self-selection based on preferences for a family-oriented life style. Because of the difficulty to measure social interaction effects among neighbors we are reluctant to say that they do not exist, even though we do not identify them. As such, we contribute to the understanding of fertility and relocation, but also to the literature on social interaction effects in fertility by testing the relevance of yet another network, i.e. that of neighbors.

About the publication


Explaining residential clustering of fertility


Janna Bergsvik, Sara Cools, and Rannveig K. Hart

Series and number

Discussion Papers no. 939


Statistisk sentralbyrå


Discussion Papers



Number of pages


About Discussion Papers

Discussion papers comprise research papers intended for international journals and books. A preprint of a Discussion Paper may be longer and more elaborate than a standard journal article as it may include intermediate calculations, background material etc.