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Japan: Higher Income Linked with More Children

Japan experienced a notable decline in fertility rates during the second half of the 20th century. However, there’s a lack of detailed information on the number of children men and women have across different birth cohorts, and how these numbers vary by education and income levels.


Researchers utilized data from the National Fertility Survey conducted in 1992, 2005, 2010, and 2015. The study focused on individuals aged 40-49, encompassing 16,728 men and 17,628 women. The analysis included assessing the distribution of the number of children (0, 1, 2, and 3 or more) and total fertility (average number of children) at completed fertility. Trends in fertility outcomes were examined separately for men and women, and further segmented by educational attainment and annual income for men.

Key Findings

  • The study revealed a significant increase in the proportion of childless men and women when comparing those born between 1943-1948 and 1971-1975 (from 14.3% to 39.9% for men and from 11.6% to 27.6% for women).
  • There was a corresponding decrease in the number of individuals with two or more children.
  • Overall total fertility decreased from 1.92 to 1.17 among men and from 1.96 to 1.42 among women.
  • Educational attainment played a role in men’s likelihood of having children, with university-educated men more likely to have children in all cohorts except those born between 1943 and 1947.
  • Men with higher incomes were consistently more likely to have children across all birth cohorts. The decline in childbearing was more pronounced in the lowest-income group.
  • Among women born between 1956 and 1970, those with a university degree were less likely to have children than those without. This trend disappeared in women born between 1971 and 1975.
  • Fertility trends and the number of children did not significantly differ by educational status for both genders across birth cohorts.


The decrease in Japan’s total fertility rate can be attributed to an increasing proportion of childless individuals and a reduction in the number of children among those who do have children. Notably, men with lower education and income were less likely to have children, and this income-related disparity in childbearing has widened in recent cohorts. For women, higher education was initially associated with lower fertility rates, but this trend has not continued in the latest cohorts. The study highlights the complex interplay of socio-economic factors in shaping fertility trends in Japan.