Volume 38 - Article 49 | Pages 1495–1534  

Partners’ empowerment and fertility in ten European countries

By Beata Osiewalska


Objective: This study aims to investigate the relationship between couples’ reproductive behaviour and the division of power between partners in different country-specific contexts.

Methods: Power relations are measured by four types of inequality between partners: partners’ educational levels, ages, paid labour, and unpaid labour. The first wave of Generations and Gender data for ten European countries is used. Parents and childless couples are considered using the hurdle Poisson model.

Results: Male empowerment (male power advantage induced by higher educational level, being older, and doing less housework than the female partner) correlates with early childbearing and positively influences the number of children that couples of reproductive age have across Europe. Female empowerment is associated with late childbearing, but only in Northern and Western Europe (NWE). For older couples who have completed reproduction, male empowerment is associated with a higher probability of parenthood in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) and France; it also correlates with higher completed fertility in selected CEE countries. Female empowerment negatively correlates with the probability of parenthood across Europe.

Conclusions: In NWE the number of children of equally empowered couples is similar to that of traditional, male-empowered unions, whereas in CEE equality correlates with lower fertility than male empowerment. This disparity is likely connected to different levels of gender equality and the various family policies in the two regions.

Contribution: This paper identifies the impacts of various micro-level (in)equalities between partners on their fertility in different country-specific settings. It pays particular attention to the distinction between completed and as yet uncompleted fertility.

Author's Affiliation

Other articles by the same author/authors in Demographic Research

Childlessness and fertility by couples' educational gender (in)equality in Austria, Bulgaria, and France
Volume 37 - Article 12

Are daughters’ childbearing intentions related to their mothers’ socio-economic status?
Volume 35 - Article 21

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