Local Childcare Availability and Dual-Earner Fertility: Variation in Childcare Coverage and Birth Hazards Over Place and Time

  • Jonas WoodEmail author
  • Karel Neels


The theoretically well-grounded hypothesis that the availability of formal childcare has a positive impact on childbearing in the developed world has been part of the population literature for a long time. Whereas the participation of women in the labour force created a tension between work and family life, the increasing availability of formal childcare in many developed countries is assumed to reconcile these two life domains due to lower opportunity costs and compatible mother and worker roles. However, previous empirical studies on the association between childcare availability and fertility exhibit ambiguous results and considerable variation in the methods applied. This study assesses the childcare–fertility hypothesis for Belgium, a consistently top-ranked country concerning formal childcare coverage that also exhibits considerable variation within the country. Using detailed longitudinal census and register data for the 2000s combined with childcare coverage rates for 588 municipalities and allowing for the endogenous nature of formal childcare and selective migration, our findings indicate clear and substantial positive effects of local formal childcare provision on birth hazards, especially when considering the transition to parenthood. In addition, this article quantifies the impact of local formal childcare availability on fertility at the aggregate level and shows that in the context of low and lowest-low fertility levels in the developed world, the continued extension of formal childcare services can be a fruitful tool to stimulate childbearing among dual-earner couples.


Regional fertility Family policy Childcare Dual-earners Europe 



This research was funded by the Research Foundation Flanders (Grant No. G.0327.15 N) and the Research Council of the University of Antwerp (Grant BOFNOI-20102014).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights

This research does not involve human participants and/or animals.

Informed Consent

This article is submitted under informed consent.

Supplementary material

10680_2018_9510_MOESM1_ESM.docx (76 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 75 kb)


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Longitudinal and Life-Course StudiesUniversity of AntwerpAntwerpBelgium

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