Monday, March 16, 2009

Women who have completed fertility: how many have or have not ever given birth?

This is one of those "seems like it should be obvious" questions, but...

A patron has asked me what percent of women in different age cohorts
(specifically, in their 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s at some specific point) over
time have given birth to at least one child. Percent who have never given
birth would also be acceptable, of course. I've been having a surprising
amount of difficulty with this. The SLID has a question on number of
children ever, and I think the 1993 person file PUMF includes variables
that will let me compute an estimate, but I was wondering if anyone had
any better or more recent suggestions. There are plenty of sources that
give averages, but not breakdowns.


1) The 1971 and 1981 individual censuses(PUSTs) asked number of children ever
born of (sometime-married) women; the 1991 census (PUMS, Basic Summary
Tabulation B9105) expanded it (in variable Fertility) to all women age 15+;
and then it was dropped from the Census, as far as I can tell. :-(

2) The data described above is your best bet.  I checked with both Census Division and Health Statistics Division (for vital statistics) and neither one of them can offer anything further.

The relevant products for "number of children ever born" are:

- CANSIM Table 075-0018: Historical statistics, number of children ever born per 1,000 ever-married women aged 15 years and over, every 10 years (persons) *Terminated* (for 1961 and 1971)

- 1981 Census print publication called "Population: Nuptiality and fertility" (Catalogue no. 92-906, Volume 1 - National series) contains a table called "Women Ever Married by Age Groups"

- 1991 Census print publication called "Fertility" (Data Products: Nation Series: catalogue no. 93-321-XPB)

3) I'm not sure if the desire is for a time series or just the distribution of women who
have given birth by age cohort.  If its the latter, the data that immediately come to
mind are the family cycles in the GSS.  For example, Cycles 20 (2006) and 15 (2001) both
contain questions about the number of children given birth to (COR_Q042).  While you
won't be able to obtain estimates for smaller areas of geography, you can get an estimate
for Canada and the more populous provinces.

Follow-up Question

Would it be possible to have someone from Census Division offer their explanation of why they consider it no longer important to ask this question?   I was under the impression that this is a rather fundamental element of demographic information.

Follow-up Answer

1) There is a continuous battle of which questions will be on the Census because there is always great demand for new content and new questions. This question was asked every ten year and was dropped in 1981. The idea is that it may not necessary to ask that question on the Census but other survey may be as appropriate to get that information. But I don't think it was picked up in other surveys.

I would suggest that the timing is right if you want to voice this information as a need:

There is a forum for consultation for the 2011 Census. This is a discussion forum specifically for that type of questions and identifying needs for 2011.

2) Don't forget too the Comparison of the census and alternative sources of
data (Source: 2001 Census consultation guide./ Statistics Canada

The 2006 version doesn't include fertility, so isn't particularly useful,
but the 1996 one did:

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