Volume 37 - Article 37 | Pages 1245–1274  

Social policies, separation, and second birth spacing in Western Europe

By Michaela Kreyenfeld, Esther Geisler, Teresa Castro Martín, Tina Hannemann, Valerie Heintz-Martin, Marika Jalovaara, Hill Kulu, Silvia Meggiolaro, Dimitri Mortelmans, Inge Pasteels, Marta Seiz, Anne Solaz

This article is part of the Special Collection 21 "Separation, Divorce, Repartnering, and Remarriage around the World"


Objective: This paper studies postseparation fertility behavior. The aim is to investigate whether, and if so how, separation affects second birth spacing in Western European countries.

Methods: This analysis makes use of rich survey data from Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom, as well as from Finnish register data. We thus cover the behavior of a large proportion of the population of Western Europe. We also use descriptive measures, such as Kaplan‒Meier survival functions and cumulative incidence curves. In the multivariate analysis, we employ event history modeling to show how education relates to postseparation fertility behavior.

Results: There are large differences in postseparation fertility behavior across European countries. For Spain and Italy, we find that only a negligibly small proportion of the population have a second child after separating from the other parent of the firstborn child. The countries with the highest proportion of second children with a new partner are the United Kingdom, Germany, and Finland. In all countries, separation after first birth leads to a sharp increase in the birth interval between first and second births.

Contribution: Our study is a contribution to the demographic literature that aims at understanding birth spacing patterns in Western Europe. Furthermore, we draw attention to the role of postseparation policies in explaining country differences in fertility behavior in contemporary societies.

Author's Affiliation

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