Journal of Population Economics

, Volume 29, Issue 1, pp 73–103 | Cite as

Parental leave benefit and differential fertility responses: evidence from a German reform

  • Kamila Cygan-Rehm
Original Paper


This paper examines the causal effects of a major change in the German parental leave benefit scheme on fertility. I use the unanticipated reform of 2007 to assess how a move from a means tested to an earnings-related benefit affects higher-order births. By using data from the Mikrozensus, I find that the reform significantly affected the timing of higher-order births in the first 5 years after a last birth. Overall, mothers “just” eligible for the new benefit for the current birth initially reduce subsequent childbearing and extend birth spacing, compared to mothers “just” ineligible. However, by the end of the third year, mothers start to compensate for the earlier losses. The negative effects are largely driven by the low-income mothers, who are now worse-off and do not display any catch-up effects. The differential fertility responses along the income distribution are in line with the heterogeneous structure of the economic incentives.


Fertility Family policy Reform Parental leave Elterngeld Germany 

JEL Classification

J13 J18 J20 K36 



I gratefully acknowledge the helpful comments and suggestions from the Editor and two anonymous referees. This paper benefited greatly from the valuable advice provided by Regina T. Riphahn and Guido Heineck. I also thank Barbara Broadway, John Haisken-DeNew, Guyonne Kalb, Yvette Khalil, Sonja Kassenboehmer, Daniel Khnle, Miriam Maeder, Marcel Thum, Michael Zibrowius, and the participants of several seminars for their insightful comments. My special thanks go to the Research Data Centre of the German Federal Statistical Office for the remote data access, in particular to Melanie Scheller for her support in handling the data.

Supplementary material

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148_2015_562_MOESM2_ESM.tex (32 kb)
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EconomicsFriedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-NürnbergNurembergGermany

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