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

Abstract

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.

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Fig. 1
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Source: K&G, ONE

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Since 2000, the maximum deductible sum is 11.2 Euros per day per child (Van Lancker and Ghysels 2012).

  2. 2.

    For instance, in 2000 the minister for social welfare in the Flemish government sets the creation of 10 000 extra places in formal childcare as a policy goal (Kind and Gezin 2000–2003).

  3. 3.

    This age ceiling was extended to 6 years in 2005 and 12 years in 2009.

  4. 4.

    In Flanders, the share has decreased from 34.3 to 22.4% in 2002–2009 (Hedebouw and Peetermans 2009).

  5. 5.

    As it is possible that the lag between childcare availability and fertility decisions is larger, additional analyses (not shown) have been performed using 24 or 36 month time lags. These do not change the main results.

  6. 6.

    Results are not presented here, but available upon request.

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Acknowledgements

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).

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Wood, J., Neels, K. Local Childcare Availability and Dual-Earner Fertility: Variation in Childcare Coverage and Birth Hazards Over Place and Time. Eur J Population 35, 913–937 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10680-018-9510-4

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Keywords

  • Regional fertility
  • Family policy
  • Childcare
  • Dual-earners
  • Europe