Births, debts and mirages: the impact of the Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS) and other factors on Australian fertility expectations

Peng Yu, Rebecca Kippen, Bruce Chapman

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7 Citations (Scopus)


This paper uses survey data to examine the effect of the income-contingent charge mechanism, the Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS), and other demographic and attitudinal variables on fertility expectations in Australia over the recent past. HECS requires former Australian students to fund some of the costs of higher education through the repayment of interest-free loans made by the Australian government. Its defining characteristic is that repayments only occur when and if students' future incomes exceed a particular level. Since its introduction in 1989, media and other populist commentary has suggested that HECS has had unanticipated effects on behaviour. Most recently, attention has focused on the effects of HECS on fertility, with some arguing that university graduates are delaying births, and having fewer children, because of their HECS debts. This paper demonstrates that the introduction of HECS has had no discernible impact on Australian fertility rates, nor on the number of children that people expect to have. However, education, age and a number of attitudinal factors are associated with significant differences in fertility expectations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)73-90
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Population Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - May 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Attitude
  • Australia
  • Education costs
  • Fertility determinants
  • Fertility expectations
  • Higher education contribution scheme
  • Lifetime fertility
  • Religiosity

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