Recent Trends in Birth Intervals in Sweden: A Decline of the Speed-Premium Effect?

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Abstract

The so-called speed-premium, introduced in Sweden in the 1980s and still in effect in 2018, grants some advantages regarding parental leave benefits for parents that have two births within a set number of months. Previous research has shown a great increase in the prevalence of short birth intervals in the 1980s and 1990s associated with the introduction of this policy. This study shows that the previously documented spike in short birth intervals has mostly disappeared in recent years. By the 2010s, the pattern of birth intervals is similar to that seen around the time of the introduction of the speed-premium in the early 1980s. Altogether the present results suggest that the effect of the speed-premium on birth spacing is relatively small in recent years.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Further information on the legislation pertaining to the parental leave system and additional statistics can be found at the website of the Swedish Social Insurance Agency (https://www.forsakringskassan.se).

  2. 2.

    Parental leave can be spread out longer through some mechanisms. For instance, one may work 50% and take parental leave at a 50% rate. This would mean a lower benefit per month, for a greater number of months. Periods of paid leave can also be combined with unpaid leave. Furthermore, parents have the legal right to reduced working hours with reduced pay throughout their children’s preschool years.

  3. 3.

    In order to receive the parental leave benefit above the flat rate during the first 6 months after the birth, it is necessary to have worked for the 8 months preceding the birth. Otherwise, the parent receives the flat rate. After the first 6 months following the birth, parental leave benefit is associated with the income earned when the parent requests the benefit. One of the aims of this provision is to incentivize parents, and especially women, to engage in paid work before and between births.

  4. 4.

    For instance, after being fixed at 5400 kronor per month for most of the 2000s, the flat rate was raised to 6750 kronor per month in 2014 and further to 7500 kronor in 2016.

  5. 5.

    The main reason for focusing on native-born women is that the shortening of birth intervals in the 1980 s has been largely concentrated in that group, as documented by previous studies. Changes in birth interval were much less pronounced among foreign-born mothers (Andersson et al. 2006). Seventy percent of all children born in Sweden in 2017 had a native-born mother. The proportion was higher in the previous decades.

  6. 6.

    Note the difference in the scale of the vertical-axis in Figs. 5, 6 and 7.

  7. 7.

    It is also conceivable that awareness of the policy increased over time and that parents realized that the policy was not as advantageous as previous generation had thought. This would also explain why its effect declined over time.

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Acknowledgements

The author gratefully acknowledges the helpful comments provided by two anonymous reviewers.

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Correspondence to Vitor Miranda.

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Miranda, V. Recent Trends in Birth Intervals in Sweden: A Decline of the Speed-Premium Effect?. Eur J Population 36, 499–510 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10680-019-09539-8

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Keywords

  • Birth interval
  • Birth spacing
  • Sweden
  • Parental leave
  • Policy
  • Speed-premium