Volume 36 - Article 7 | Pages 227–254  

The influence of a supportive environment for families on women’s fertility intentions and behavior in South Korea

By Soo-Yeon Yoon


Background: Recent theories of low fertility emphasize the increasing importance of support for the family in changing gender roles toward egalitarianism. In a context of weak institutional support for families and low levels of gender equity, do family policies influence individual fertility? Moreover, might support from other sources, such as men’s involvement in the family or grandparental childcare assistance, positively influence fertility intentions and behavior?

Objective: I examine the influence of three sources of a supportive environment for families – the state, husbands, and parents or in-laws – on women’s fertility intentions and behavior regarding second children.

Methods: Using data from three waves of the Korean Longitudinal Survey for Women and Families, I measured supportive environments by knowledge of family policy, men’s involvement in housework and childcare, and grandparental childcare assistance. I then studied these factors with binary logistic regression analysis.

Results: The findings suggest that supportive environments for the family have a stronger effect on fertility behavior than on fertility intentions. Women who are knowledgeable about childcare leave reserved for use by fathers are more likely to have a second child than women who do not know about it. Support from husbands for housework and childcare and intensive childcare assistance from coresiding parents or in-laws increase the likelihood of a second birth.

Contribution: These findings contribute to our theoretical understanding of the interplay between the welfare state and the family in studies of fertility. Moreover, the findings have unique implications for very low fertility in countries with limited and fragmented state support of families.

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