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Do Family Support Environments Influence Fertility? Evidence from 20 European Countries

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Abstract

Using data from two recent waves of the European Social Survey, we examine the relationship between macro-level supports for child rearing and individual-level fertility outcomes. We characterize country-level support environments across a broader set of domains than is typical, including supports from institutions, labor markets, extended families, and male partners. With rare exceptions, we find significant relationships between family support environment indicators and second or higher order births. In contrast, the relationship between family support environment indicators and first births is weaker and less often significant. This pattern accords with theory that practical considerations are more important for the second and subsequent births than for the transition to parenthood. Although most forms of support are positively related to fertility, we document a negative relationship between intergenerational exchange of support and higher order fertility. Our analyses also reveal that macro-level support environments are related to childbearing plans in much the same way as they are related to having a child, buttressing the argument that understanding the determinants of childbearing plans can help us to understand childbearing behavior.

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Notes

  1. The 20 countries in our sample are Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK.

  2. We investigated a three-level approach in which individual fertility intentions and births were modeled as a function of national and within-country, regional support environments. We found that the within-country regional variation in fertility intentions and births was overshadowed by the cross-country variation. We note that the ESS sample was designed to represent national populations but not sub-country regional populations, and cell sizes for regions were small, around n = 40 on average, once our sample restrictions were applied.

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Correspondence to Kristen Harknett.

Appendix

Appendix

See Tables 6 and 7.

Table 6 Country-level factor definitions
Table 7 Family support environment descriptives for 20 countries

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Harknett, K., Billari, F.C. & Medalia, C. Do Family Support Environments Influence Fertility? Evidence from 20 European Countries. Eur J Population 30, 1–33 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10680-013-9308-3

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