The Role of Family Orientations in Shaping the Effect of Fertility on Subjective Well-being: A Propensity Score Matching Approach

Abstract

This article investigates whether and how having a child impacts an individual’s subjective well-being, while taking into account heterogeneity in family attitudes. People with different family orientations have different values, gender attitudes, preferences toward career and family, and expectations about how childbearing can affect their subjective well-being. These differences impact fertility decisions and the effect of parenthood on an individual’s life satisfaction. We define three groups of people based on their family orientations: Traditional, Mixed, and Modern. Applying propensity score matching on longitudinal data (British Household Panel Survey), we create groups of individuals with very similar socioeconomic characteristics and family orientations before childbearing. We then compare those who have one child with those who are childless, and those who have two children with those who have only one child. We show that parents are significantly more satisfied than nonparents, and this effect is stronger among men than among women. For men, we do not find significant differences across family orientations groups in the effect of the birth of the first child on life satisfaction. Among women, only Traditional mothers seem to be more satisfied than their childless counterparts. Women who have a second child are never more satisfied than those who have only one child, regardless of their family orientations. Traditional and Mixed men experience a gain in life satisfaction when they have a second child, but this effect is not found for Modern men.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    See Amin et al. (2015) for a discussion on the monozygotic twins fixed-effects estimators.

  2. 2.

    In previous analyses, we also tried to match individuals three, four, and five years before the treatment, but we were able to observe diverging patterns of life satisfaction resulting from anticipation effects only in the year before the treatment. Thus, we opted to match two years before childbearing in order to follow individuals and their life satisfaction for a longer period after childbearing.

  3. 3.

    In principle, t can assume values in {–1, 0, 1, . . . , 11}.

  4. 4.

    The average lag between the start of the observation period and the year of matching is 2.8 and 1.1, respectively, for the analyses on the first and second child. The average number of years of follow-up after matching for the two analyses is 3.8 and 5.1, respectively.

  5. 5.

    This assumption, which is a weaker version of the so-called unconfoundedness or conditional independence assumption, can be written for identification of ATT in our case as: E[Y(0) t |D 0 = 1, X –2, Y –2] = E[Y(0) t |D 0 = 0, X –2, Y –2] (see, e.g., Arpino and Aassve 2013).

  6. 6.

    The question about happiness is as follows: “Have you recently been feeling reasonably happy, all things considered?” Responses range from 1 (much less happy than usual) to 4 (more happy than usual).

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Acknowledgments

The authors would like to thank Letizia Mencarini and Arnstein Aassve for their useful comments. Moreover, the authors are very grateful to the anonymous reviewers and the editor for the careful review of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Nicoletta Balbo.

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The authors gratefully acknowledge financial support from the European Research Council under the European ERC Grant Agreement no StG-313617 (SWELL-FER: Subjective Well-being and Fertility, P.I. Letizia Mencarini).

Appendix

Appendix

Table 7 Life satisfaction and sample sizes year by year for the analysis of the effect of the first child on life satisfaction
Table 8 Balance of independent variables before and after matching: Pooled sample for the analysis of the effect of the first child

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Balbo, N., Arpino, B. The Role of Family Orientations in Shaping the Effect of Fertility on Subjective Well-being: A Propensity Score Matching Approach. Demography 53, 955–978 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13524-016-0480-z

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Keywords

  • Life satisfaction
  • Fertility
  • Family orientations
  • Propensity score matching