Education Fever and the East Asian Fertility Puzzle: A case study of low fertility in South Korea

Asian Popul Stud. 2013 May 1;9(2):196-215. doi: 10.1080/17441730.2013.797293.


Fertility throughout East Asia has fallen rapidly over the last five decades and is now below the replacement rate of 2.1 in every country in the region. Using South Korea as a case study, we argue that East Asia's ultra-low fertility rates can be partially explained by the steadfast parental drive to have competitive and successful children. Parents throughout the region invest large amounts of time and money to ensure that their children are able to enter prestigious universities and obtain top jobs. Accordingly, childrearing has become so expensive that the average couple cannot afford to have more than just one or two children. The trend of high parental investment in child education, also known as 'education fever', exemplifies the notion of 'quality over quantity' and is an important contributing factor to understanding low-fertility in East Asia.

Keywords: East Asia; Education Fever; Korea; Low fertility; Quality-Quantity Trade-Off.