Volume 31 - Article 23 | Pages 687–734

Certainty of meeting fertility intentions declines in Europe during the 'Great Recession'

By Maria Rita Testa, Stuart Gietel-Basten

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Date received:06 Jun 2013
Date published:18 Sep 2014
Word count:9138
Keywords:Europe, Great Recession, lifetime fertility intentions, multilevel analysis, PIIGS, unemployment


Background: Relatively little research has been conducted on how economic recessions impact fertility intentions. In particular, uncertainty in reproductive intentions has not been examined in relation to economic shocks.

Objective: The purpose of this paper is to estimate the impact of individuals' perception of negative changes in both their own and their country's economic performance on reproductive intentions in Europe during the time of the 'Great Recession' (2006-2011). Crucially, we examine both intentions and stated certainty of meeting these intentions.

Methods: Using the 2011 Eurobarometer survey for 27 European countries, fertility intentions and reproductive uncertainty are regressed on individuals' perceptions of past trends in country's economic situation, household's financial situation, and personal job situation. Multilevel ordinal regressions models are run separately for people at parities zero and one as well as controlling for a set of socio-demographic variables.

Results: A worsening in the households' financial situation, as perceived in the years of the economic crisis, does not affect people's fertility intentions but rather the certainty of meeting these intentions. This relationship holds true at the individual-level for childless people. The more negative the individual's assessment of the household's financial situation, the higher the reproductive uncertainty. While this works exclusively at the country-level for people at parity one, the higher the share of people‟s pessimism on households' financial situation in the country the more insecure individuals of such a country are about having additional children.

Conclusions: The empirical evidence suggests that individuals' uncertainty about realising their fertility intentions has risen in Europe and is positively linked to people's perceived household financial difficulties. If European economies continue to fare poorly, fertility intentions could eventually start to decline in response to such difficulties.

Author's Affiliation

Maria Rita Testa - Libera Università Internazionale degli Studi Sociali "Guido Carli", Italy [Email]
Stuart Gietel-Basten - Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong [Email]

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