Population Research and Policy Review

, Volume 26, Issue 3, pp 323–346 | Cite as

The impact of family policies on fertility in industrialized countries: a review of the literature

  • Anne H. GauthierEmail author


This paper examines the theoretical propositions and empirical evidence linking policies and fertility. More specifically, the analysis presented in this paper draws attention to the complex mechanisms that theoretically link policies and demographic outcomes: mechanisms that involve imperfect information and decisions that are rationally bound by very specific circumstances. As to the empirical evidence, studies provide mixed conclusions as to the effect of policies on fertility. While a small positive effect of policies on fertility is found in numerous studies, no statistically significant effect is found in others. Moreover, some studies suggest that the effect of policies tends to be on the timing of births rather than on completed fertility.


Demography Fertility Public policy 



An earlier version of this paper was presented at the ESF/EURESCO conference “The Second Demographic Transition in Europe” (Bad Herrenalb, Germany, 23–28 June 2001) while a condensed version was presented as part of a plenary debate at the IUSSP conference (Tours July 2005). I am grateful to the participants of these conferences for their comments and to the anonymous referees of this journal. Finally, many thanks to my research assistants, Monetta Bailey and Alyssa Borkosky, for their help in searching and reviewing the literature.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada

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