European Journal of Population

, Volume 34, Issue 5, pp 745–767 | Cite as

Societal Agreement on Gender Role Attitudes and Childlessness in 38 Countries

  • Ansgar Hudde


Many authors argue that levels of childlessness and fertility are a function of changing gender relations, but the mechanisms behind this association remain unclear and mainly untested. This study argues that the societal variation in gender role attitudes explains the link: a great variation in attitudes among potential partners leads to uncertainty and conflicts, which depresses people’s propensity for parenthood. This idea is tested with multilevel logistic regression models for 6305 individuals in 38 countries on all continents, using ISSP 2012 data. Measures for the average gender role attitude in the society as well as the dispersion in attitudes are regressed on whether individuals have at least one child or are childless. Attitudes are captured using factor analysis and are opinions towards the gendered division of given tasks and privileges, such as childrearing or the uptake of parental leave. The dispersion in attitudes is the standard deviation of the factor variable in the given country. The analysis gives support to the hypothesis: the greater the variation in gender role attitudes, the higher the chance for individuals to remain childless. The association is significant and holds against various robustness checks.


Transition to parenthood Childlessness Fertility Gender role attitudes Gender revolution 



I thank Henriette Engelhardt-Wölfler, Gøsta Esping-Andersen, and Francesco Billari for their advice and support. The work has also benefited from very helpful comments from Léa Pessin and Michael Gebel. Further thanks go to the participants of the EDUREP conference in Vienna 2015, the Internal BAGSS Conference 2016 in Bamberg, the Annual Meeting of the German Demographic Association 2016 in Leipzig and the 2nd Human Fertility Database Symposium in Berlin 2016.


This work was supported by the Bamberg Graduate School of Social Sciences which is funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) under the German Excellence Initiative (GSC1024).

Supplementary material

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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Bamberg Graduate School of Social Sciences (BAGSS)University of BambergBambergGermany

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