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Morgan, S. Philip; Rindfuss, Ronald R.; & Parnell, Allan M. (1984). Modern Fertility Patterns: Contrasts between the United States and Japan. Population and Development Review, 10(1), 19-40.


Using vital registration and survey data, this article contrasts the modern fertility patterns of Japan and the United States. Japanese women start childbearing at a much later age and fewer remain permanently childless compared with US women. In addition, the timing of fertility in Japan is expected to be less influenced by period-specific factors than the timing of US fertility. The authors attribute these important differences to cross-national variation in family structure, sex roles, and the meaning of marriage. The persistence of these cross-national differences challenges the view that continued economic development or the passage of time will produce convergence in these features of society and thus in fertility patterns. Instead, the authors suggest a range of possible modern fertility patterns--the one adopted depending upon the society's traditional institutional structures. Finally, given the importance of the timing of fertility in influencing aggregate period fertility rates and the importance of the timing of parenthood in influencing individuals' life chances, these differences have important practical implications. These implications are discussed, as are the implications of US-Japanese differences for less developed countries.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

Population and Development Review


Morgan, S. Philip
Rindfuss, Ronald R.
Parnell, Allan M.