Some of the first studies into the subject were carried out on individuals living before the advent of IQ testing, in the late 19th century, by looking at the fertility of men listed in WHO's WHO, these individuals being presumably of high intelligence. These men, taken as a whole, had few children, implying a negative correlation.
More rigorous studies carried out on those alive during the Second World War returned different results suggesting a slight positive correlation with respect to intelligence. The findings from these investigations were consistent enough for Osborn and Bajema, writing as late as 1972, to conclude that fertility patterns were eugenic, and that "the reproductive trend toward an increase in the frequency of genes associated with higher IQ... will probably continue in the foreseeable future in the United States and will be found also in other industrial welfare-state democracies. But several reviewers considered the findings premature, arguing that the samples were nationally unrepresentative, generally being confined to whites born between 1910 and 1940 in the Great Lakes States. Other researchers began to report a negative correlation in the 1960s after two decades of neutral or positive fertility.
In 1982, Daniel Vining sought to address these issues in a large study on the fertility of over 10,000 individuals throughout the United States, who were then aged 25 to 34. The average fertility in his study was correlated at -0.86 with IQ for white women and -0.96 for black women. In considering these results along with those from earlier researchers, Vining wrote that "in periods of rising birth rates, persons with higher intelligence tend to have fertility equal to, if not exceeding, that of the population as a whole."
To address the concern that the fertility of this sample could not be considered complete, Vining carried out a follow-up study for the same sample 18 years later, reporting the same, though slightly decreased, negative correlation between IQ and fertility.
In a 1988 study, Retherford and Sewell examined the association between the measured intelligence and fertility of over 9,000 high school graduates in Wisconsin in 1957, and confirmed the inverse relationship between IQ and fertility for both sexes, but much more so for females.
In a 1999 study Richard Lynn examined the relationship between the intelligence of adults aged 40 and above and their numbers of children and their siblings. Data were collected from the 1994 National Opinion Research Center survey among a representative sample of 2992 English-speaking individuals aged 18 years. Findings revealed that weak negative correlations of -0.05 and -0.09, respectively were found. Further analysis showed that the negative correlation was present only in females. The correlation for females between intelligence and ideal number of children was effectively zero.
In 2004 Richard Lynn and Marian Van Court attempted a straightforward replication of Vining's work. Their study returned similar result.
Another way of checking the negative relationship between IQ and fertility is to consider the relationship which educational attainment has to fertility, since education is known to be a reasonable proxy for IQ, correlating with IQ at .55; in a 1999 study examining the relationship between IQ and education in a large national sample, David Rowe and others found not only that achieved education had a high heritability (.68) and that half of the variance in education was explained by an underlying genetic component shared by IQ, education, and SES. One study investigating fertility and education carried out in 1991 found that high school dropouts in America had the most children (2.5 on average), with high school graduates having fewer children, and college graduates having the fewest children (1.56 on average).
Among a sample of women using a reliable form of birth control, success rates were related to IQ, with the percentages of high, medium and low IQ women having unwanted births during a three-year interval being 3%, 8% and 11%, respectively. Another study found that after an unwanted pregnancy has occurred, higher IQ couples are more likely to obtain abortions ; and unmarried teenage girls who become pregnant are found to be more likely to carry their babies to term if they are doing poorly in school. Conversely, while desired family size is apparently the same for women of all IQ levels, highly educated women are found to be more likely to say that they desire more children than they have, indicating a "deficit fertility" in the highly intelligent. In her review of reproductive trends in the United States, Van Court argues that "each factor - from initially employing some form of contraception, to successful implementation of the method, to termination of an accidental pregnancy when it occurs - involves selection against intelligence."
A theory to explain the fertility-intelligence relationship is that fertility is conversely driven by income. This well studied correlation is known as the demographic-economic paradox, which shows an inverse correlation between wealth and fertility within and between nations. The higher the degree of education and GDP per capita of a human population, subpopulation or social stratum, the fewer children are born. In a 1974 UN population conference in Bucharest, Karan Singh, a former minister of population in India, illustrated this trend by stating "Development is the best contraceptive"