Journal of Population Research

, Volume 31, Issue 2, pp 151–192 | Cite as

The effect of women’s participation in the labour market on the postponement of first childbirth: a comparison of Italy and Hungary

  • Annalisa Busetta
  • Ornella Giambalvo


This paper analyses the effect of increasing female participation in the labour market on the transition to first childbirth. Regional perspectives are considered to help us understand how postponement behaviour is changing over time and at different paces in each region. The analysis is based on the first wave of the Generations and Gender Survey of Italy and Hungary. We use a multilevel event history random intercept model to examine the effect of individuals’ positions in the labour market on the transition to motherhood, controlling for differences in macrolevel factors related to regional backgrounds in the two countries. The regional data for Italy came from the Italian National Statistical Institute, and for Hungary from our imputation developed from the time series available at the national and the regional levels (Hungarian Central Statistical Office, KSH). The postponement of first childbirth is strongly linked to the increasing involvement of women in paid work, but with opposite effects in the two countries. Even if we control for changes in women’s levels of education over time and for shifts in women’s aspirations and levels of attainment in the labour market, we find that being employed remains a risk factor for the postponement of the first birth among Italian women, and a strong protective factor among Hungarian women. At the contextual level, the variables that take into account the regional socio-economic changes provides evidence of important effects on individual behaviour among Italian women, and of only minor effects among Hungarian women. All of the regional breakdowns in both Italy and Hungary show that the postponement of motherhood goes hand-in-hand with the acceptance of deep cultural and socio-economic changes.


Low fertility Postponement First job Education Multilevel event history models 



The authors would like to thank the two anonymous reviewers for their extremely useful comments, which have helped us to significantly improve the paper, and Giovanni Boscaino for helping with the regional maps of Hungary and Italy. The authors gratefully acknowledge the financial support provided by University of Palermo [Grant No. ORPA06YH89 under the responsibility of Ornella Giambalvo]. Although this paper is the result of the joint effort of both authors, introduction and lowest-low fertility sections are attributable to O. Giambalvo whereas all the other sections to A. Busetta.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Economics, Business and StatisticsUniversity of PalermoPalermoItaly

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