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The one-child family: France in the European context
Didier Breton & France Prioux
June 2009

Traditional Abstract

This paper observes the change since the 1970s in the proportion of men and women having only one child during their reproductive life, and examines their sociodemographic characteristics. The aim is to explore the significant variables of the complement of the parity progression ratio from first to second birth (1-A1). First, we present the theories, findings and results relating to the single-child family model in Europe. Then, we perform a multivariate analysis with the dependent variable of the model being the fact of not having had a second child ten years after the birth of a first child in stable unions.
Structured Abstract

In France approximately one-fifth of women have one child during their reproductive lifetimes, a proportion that has remained fairly stable. One-child families are becoming more prevalent in Central and Southern Europe.

We attempt to identify criteria that determine who has only one child, by investigating early union dissolution, socio-occupational categories, family histories, and biological factors related to late childbearing.

We investigate correlates of non-progression from first to second birth (1-A1), using data from the EHF12 family survey (1999) and the European GGS project, ERFI13 (2005). We use descriptive statistics, and logistic models of second births.

Those most likely to have only one child are older when the first child is born, and those with less stable unions. The stability of the overall proportion in France arises from an increase in structural factors that favor a single child, combined with a declining percentage of one-child families within categories such as stable couples. Differences between men and women are small.

Work-family tradeoffs are a predominant factor in decisions not to have a second child. The one-child model appears to be transmitted from one generation to the next: the effects of religion, nationality, and social origin are highly important.

In Germany and England & Wales, childlessness is increasing at the expense of the one-child model, whereas in Southern European countries the two are increasing together. France lies in a stable intermediate position with relatively low childlessness and a fairly high proportion of women with only one child.