Where Are the Babies? Labor Market Conditions and Fertility in Europe

  • Alicia AdseraEmail author


Cross-country differences in both the age at first birth and fertility are substantial in Europe. This paper uses distinct fluctuations in unemployment rates across European countries during the 1980s and the 1990s combined with broad differences in their labor market arrangements to analyze the associations between fertility timing and the changing economic environment with close to 50,000 women from 13 European countries. First, it employs time-varying measures of aggregate market conditions in each woman’s country as covariates and second, it adds micro-measures of each woman’s labor market history to the models. High and persistent unemployment in a country is associated with delays in childbearing (and second births). The association is robust to diverse measures of unemployment and to controls for family-friendly policies. Besides moderate unemployment, a large public employment sector (which provides security and benefits) is coupled with faster transitions to all births. Women with temporary contracts, mostly in Southern Europe, are the least likely to give birth to a second child.


Low fertility Unemployment Economic uncertainty Labor market Europe Short-term contracts Public sector employment 

Où sont les bébés ? Conditions du marché du travail et fécondité en Europe


En Europe, les différences entre pays tant pour l’âge à la première naissance que pour la fécondité sont importantes. Dans cet article, les données sur les fluctuations des taux de chômage dans les pays européens durant les années 1980 et les années 1990 ainsi que sur les grandes différences dans les caractéristiques du marché du travail sont utilisées afin d’analyser les associations entre calendrier de fécondité et l’environnement économique variable, pour près de 50.000 femmes dans treize pays européens. Dans un premier temps, des mesures agrégées et variant avec le temps du marché économique du pays de chacune des femmes sont utilisées comme covariables ; dans un deuxième temps, des caractéristiques relatives à l’histoire de chaque femme sur le marché du travail sont ajoutées au modèle. Dans les pays présentant un chômage élevé et persistant, la fécondité (et les secondes naissances) est postposée. Cette association persiste en dépit de diverses mesures prises pour enrayer le chômage et malgré le contrôle de l’existence de politiques en faveur de la famille. Un chômage modéré et une proportion élevée d’emploi dans le secteur public (garantie de sécurité et d’avantages) sont associés à une procréation plus rapide. Les femmes ayant des contrats d’emploi temporaires, principalement en Europe du Sud, ont les plus faibles probabilités de donner naissance à un deuxième enfant.


Basse fécondité Chômage Incertitude économique Marché du travail Europe Contrat de travail de courte durée Emploi secteur public 



I would like to thank Patrick Heuveline, Bo Honore, Bob Kaestner, Kevin Milligan, Ernesto Villanueva, two anonymous referees, and seminar participants at University of British Columbia, University of Calgary, George Mason University, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, University of Chicago, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Universitat de Barcelona, ESPE, PAA, Midwest Economics Association, and Cristina Mora for excellent research assistance. This paper was made possible by Grant Numbers P30-HD18288 and T32-HD007302 from the NICHD. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Woodrow Wilson School & OPRPrinceton UniversityPrincetonUSA
  2. 2.IZABonnGermany

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