Background There has been widespread international concern about declining fertility rates and the long-term negative consequences particularly for industrialised countries with ageing populations. In an attempt to boost fertility rates, the Australian Government introduced a maternity payment known as the Baby Bonus. However, major concerns have been raised that such monetary incentives would attract teenagers and socially disadvantaged groups.
Methods Population-level data and generalised linear models were used to examine general fertility rates between 1995 and 2006 by socioeconomic group, maternal age group, Aboriginality and location in Western Australia prior to and following the introduction of the Baby Bonus in July 2004.
Results After a steady decline in general fertility rates between 1995 and 2004, rates increased significantly from 52.2 births per 1000 women, aged between 15 and 49 years, in 2004 to 58.6 births per 1000 women in 2006. While there was an overall increase in general fertility rates after adjusting for maternal socio-demographic characteristics, there were no significant differences among maternal age groups (p=0.98), between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal women(p=0.80), maternal residential locations (p=0.98) or socioeconomic groups (p=0.68). The greatest increase in births were among women residing in the highest socioeconomic areas who had the lowest general fertility rate in 2004 (21.5 births per 1000 women) but the highest in 2006 (38.1 births per 1000 women).
Conclusions Findings suggest that for countries with similar social, economic and political climates to Australia, a monetary incentive may provide a satisfactory solution to declining general fertility rates.
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Funding AL acknowledges the support of an Australian Postgraduate Award Industry Scholarship provided through an Australian Research Council Linkage Project Grant (LP0455417). NN is supported by an Australian National Health and Medical Research Council Postdoctoral Fellowship (404118). JL is supported by a Curtin University Research and Teaching Fellowship.
Competing interests None.
Ethics approval This study was conducted with the approval of the Human Research Ethics Committee at the University of Western Australia, the Western Australian Aboriginal Health Information and Ethics Committee and the Human Research Ethics Committee at the Department of Health, Western Australia.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
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