Volume 38 - Article 19 | Pages 451–470  

Exploring the childless universe: Profiles of women and men without children in Italy

By Valentina Tocchioni


Background: In recent decades, several Western countries have experienced a large increase in childlessness. Relatively little is known about the profiles of childless women in Italy, and virtually nothing about childless men.

Objective: The aim of this paper is to address this gap by identifying typical life course trajectories of childless women and men in Italy from a gender perspective and in a cross-cohort comparison.

Methods: In order to identify typical patterns I adopted a holistic perspective, applying sequence analysis to data on partnership, employment, and education for a sample of childless women and men derived from the 2009 Italian Family and Social Subjects survey.

Results: Six profiles each were identified for childless women and men, which illustrate the marked heterogeneity of the childless universe. Four out of the six were similar for both genders. Importantly, the life course of the childless evolved across cohorts, with an increasing proportion of employed women and single men in the youngest generations.

Contribution: This work sheds light on differences in childlessness in Italy by gender and generation. It confirms the role of factors such as not having a partner, and adds new empirical findings such as the pattern of disadvantaged, less-educated women and that of highly educated men with a history of unstable employment.

Author's Affiliation

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