, Volume 26, Issue 3, pp 963-982
Date: 10 Nov 2012

A model of voluntary childlessness

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Abstract

Demographers and sociologists have studied why women remain childless for more than two decades; however, this specific choice of zero fertility has not interested economists. Permanent childlessness, in developed countries, can concern up to 30 % of the women in a cohort. Childlessness rates can be positively related to average fertility for some cohorts of women. This paper provides an explanation for this using an endogenous fertility model where individuals have different preferences for children. The main mechanism considered goes through the intergenerational evolution of preferences: I show that a reduction in the gender wage gap, or an increase in the fixed cost of becoming a parent, has a negative effect on both fertility and childlessness. The reduction of childlessness is due to a composition effect: small families shrink more than larger families, and this reduces childlessness.

Responsible editor: Alessandro Cigno