Does gender equality matter for fertility? Demographic findings on this issue are rather inconclusive. We argue that one reason for this is that the complexity of the concept of gender equality has received insufficient attention. Gender equality needs to be conceptualized in a manner that goes beyond perceiving it as mere “sameness of distribution”. It needs to include notions of gender equity and thus to allow for distinguishing between gender difference and gender inequality. We sketch three dimensions of gender equality related to employment, financial resources, and family work, which incorporate this understanding: (1) the ability to maintain a household; (2) agency and the capability to choose; and (3) gender equity in household and care work. We explore their impact on childbearing intentions of women and men using the European Generations and Gender Surveys. Our results confirm the need for a more nuanced notion of gender equality in studies on the relationship between gender equality on fertility. They show that there is no uniform effect of gender equality on childbearing intentions, but that the impact varies by gender and by parity.
L’égalité de genre a-t-elle un impact sur la fécondité ? Les résultats des études démographiques sont peu concluants. Nous soutenons qu’une des raisons de cette incertitude est l’insuffisance de prise en compte de la complexité du concept d’égalité de genre. L’égalité de genre doit être conceptualisée de manière à dépasser la perception d’une simple distribution égalitaire. Cette conceptualisation doit permettre de distinguer entre les différences selon le genre et les inégalités de genre et donc inclure la notion d’équité de genre. Dans le but d’illustrer cette approche, nous esquissons trois dimensions de l’égalité de genre en relation avec l’emploi, les ressources financières et les tâches domestiques qui intègrent cette approche : (1) la capacité à soutenir le ménage (2) la possibilité d’agir et la capacité de choisir (3) l’équité de genre dans les tâches domestiques et de soins. Nous étudions leur impact sur les intentions des hommes et des femmes d’avoir des enfants à partir des données des enquêtes européennes Genre et Génération. Nos résultats confirment la nécessité d’une approche plus nuancée de la notion d’égalité de genre. Ils montrent qu’il n’y a pas un effet uniforme de l’égalité de genre sur les intentions de procréation mais que l’impact varie, selon le sexe et la parité, en fonction de la dimension d’égalité de genre évaluée.
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Fertility intentions are less predictive at the aggregate level than at the individual level. Moreover, there are many factors that influence the realization of intended fertility, such as religiosity, country of residence, certainty of the intention, so that the magnitude or strength of the link between intentions and realization may vary by the factors included (Westoff and Ryder 1977; Toulemon and Testa 2005; Spéder and Kapitány 2009; Régnier-Loilier and Vignoli 2011).
For more information on the Generations and Gender Programme see Vikat et al. (2007), UNECE/PAU (2008a, b), as well as the homepage of UNECE/PAU at http://www.unece.org/pau/ggp/Welcome (last accessed May 4, 2013) and the homepage of the EU-project “GGP Design Studies for Research Infrastructure” at http://www.ggp-i.org (last accessed May 4, 2013).
We chose upper age limits that lie about “half-way” within the socially accepted age ranges found by Billari et al. (2011). Using the European Social Survey for 25 countries Billari et al. (2011) found that there is considerable variation in socially accepted age limits for childbearing in Europe. For men, the accepted upper age limit varies between 45.3 and 51.2 years, for women between 39.3 and 43.8 years. We also chose these age ranges to recognize the tendency towards childbearing at higher ages, in higher-order partnerships or the possibilities offered by assisted reproductive technology to realize childbearing intentions at higher ages.
Including non-partnered women and men would have distorted the interpretation of the results because the answer to the question on childbearing intentions could have been influenced by the fact that these women/men had no partner at the time of the interview. Moreover, we would have had to exclude them from the analysis of the relationship between gender division of household work/care and fertility intentions, since they do not have a partner with whom they could share household work/care. Finally, we would have had to treat these women/men as a separate group because their (economic and financial) situation has to be judged differently than the one of couples due to the lack of mutual reliance or mutual dependence. This would have overloaded the paper and distracted from its core, gender equality.
The standard GGS-questionnaire offers the respondent four answering options to the question whether she intends to have a child in the next 3 years: definitely yes, probably yes, probably no, definitely no. Norway only offered respondents the choice between yes and no. We therefore recoded all answers to yes or no, respectively.
We also ran models for each country separately in order to get some insight into country-specific patterns. However, in these models we could not distinguish between fertility intentions at higher parities due to the small number of cases in some countries.
In some of the GGS countries one did not ask whether the partner is full-time or part-time employed.
According to Badurashvili et al. (2008), in Georgia, partnership formation and childbearing are so closely connected that childless women’s (and men’s) intention to have a child within the next 3 years in fact reflects their wish to form a partnership (and family) in the near future.
We coded those answering “very easy”, “easy”, and “fairly easy” as “yes—easy to make ends meet” and those answering “with great difficulty”, “with difficulty” and “with some difficulty” as “no—difficult to make ends meet”.
The results are available from the authors upon request. It should be noted that in our single-country studies we could not differentiate between mothers and fathers of different parities.
These items all loaded on one factor, as did the items related to men’s involvement in childcare tasks. For each task we distinguished between her doing all the work (value 1), her doing most of the work (value 2) and sharing equally or him doing most/all of the tasks (value 3). He doing most or all of the household chores is very rare and therefore we pooled these cases together with equal sharing. The index is constructed by summarizing the scores for each task and then standardizing the result into a scale between 0 and 1.
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We thank Dorothea Rieck for assisting in the preparation of the data, Irina Badurashvili for information on the Georgian society and for explaining the Georgian family and fertility behavior to us, and Gunnar Andersson, two anonymous reviewers, and the editors of the European Journal of Population for their comments on an earlier version of the paper. Special appreciation goes to Jan Hoem for comments, discussions, and editorial advice. We also thank the participants of the section “Low fertility in comparative perspectives” of the Population Association of America Annual Meeting 2010 (Dallas). This work was supported by the Linnaeus Center on Social Policy and Family Dynamics in Europe (SPaDE), Grant 349-2007-8701 of the Swedish Research Council and by the Research Council of Norway (202442/S20).
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Neyer, G., Lappegård, T. & Vignoli, D. Gender Equality and Fertility: Which Equality Matters?. Eur J Population 29, 245–272 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10680-013-9292-7
- Gender equality
- Égalité de genre