, Volume 27, Issue 4, pp 247-273
Date: 09 Jan 2011

Why do English-speaking countries have relatively high fertility?

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In broad terms, the division in Europe between countries with very low fertility and countries with sustainable fertility matches Esping-Anderson’s classification of the same countries into ‘conservative’ and ‘social democratic’ (Esping-Anderson 1990). A central difference between these two types relates to their preferred models of the family. The conservative countries hold more to the ‘breadwinner’ model of the family while the social democratic countries seek higher levels of gender equity within the family and in the workplace. State support in both conservative and social democratic countries is designed to be consistent with these differing views of the family. Would we then not expect fertility to be very low in Esping-Anderson’s third group of countries, the ‘liberal’ countries, essentially English-speaking countries? By the Esping-Anderson definition, liberal countries are notable for their lack of support for families from public sources. Instead, according to Esping-Anderson, families must rely upon market provision for the services that they may need to combine work and family and they must rely on market employment to generate the income required to support their children. Contrary to this theory, whether measured by contemporary cross-sectional fertility or completed cohort fertility, with the exception of Canada, English-speaking countries now have the highest fertility rates among the countries that were classified by Esping-Anderson. Given the strength of theoretical explanation that arises from comparative studies of fertility in Europe, the paper examines why fertility in English-speaking countries seems not to follow expectation.

This is the English-language version of a paper originally published in Politiques sociales et familiales 100, June 2010, entitled ‘Pourquoi la fécondité est-elle élevée dans les plays Anglophones?’ [in French].