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A new study suggests the aspirations of women in Mongolia have rapidly shifted. Before the rapid economic transition of the 1990s, the wealthiest women in the Communist-style era had big families. However, women today are less interested in babies and driven more by money and status.

The research by Oxford University and Sheffield University was based on interviews with 9,000 women in Mongolia, a country that underwent a sudden transition from a Soviet-style state to mass privatisation. While the older cohort who lived under a Communist-style regime were likely to have bigger families if they were wealthier, younger women living in a more capitalist society want wealth and a partner with social standing before starting a family.

The research is published in the latest issue of the journal, Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The authors describe this as a 'demographic-economic paradox': the unequal and skills-based society of Mongolia today enables the educated women to rise up the social ladder and make money, but rather than this change being liberating, the paper suggests it seems to be at the expense of high fertility. As the free market takes hold, those women who have children later to pursue education become wealthier and this trend is particularly marked in the cities where most of the opportunities lie.

The research investigated the link between women's attitudes towards child-bearing and wealth, both between and within regions. The researchers analysed survey data on 9,000 women, aged from 15-49 years old, and over 4,000 husbands. They were asked about income, household amenities, educational level, the total number of children born, and how many children they already had when they first used contraceptive methods.

They found wealth becomes linked with small family sizes and women who live in the wealthiest households start using contraception before the birth of their first child or after one or two babies, while women who live in the poorest households start using contraception after three, four or five children.

Read the full story on the University's website