Volume 39 - Article 28 | Pages 795–834

Economic uncertainty and first-birth intentions in Europe

By Susanne Fahlén, Livia Sz. Oláh

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Date received:10 May 2017
Date published:10 Oct 2018
Word count:9839
Keywords:childbearing intentions, economic uncertainties, Europe, first birth


Background: The demographic challenge Europe is facing due to long-term low fertility, accompanied by pronounced economic uncertainty, indicates the need for adequate policy response based on a thorough understanding of the economic uncertainty–fertility decisions–public policy nexus.

Objective: We address the relationship between societal economic conditions, individual economic uncertainty, and short-term first-birth intentions of women and men in ten European countries, representing various institutional contexts before and after the Great Recession.

Methods: We analyse European Social Survey data from 2004 and 2011. After addressing the macro-level association, we study the micro-level relationship in regard to perceived security of employment and income situation, based on multiple logistic regression models.

Results: Societal economic uncertainty is negatively associated with short-term parenthood intentions, especially for men. Regarding subjective economic security, men’s labour market position matters irrespectively of the institutional context, but women’s labour market position matters at younger ages only and in particular welfare regimes (the Postsocialist and Familialistic regimes). Perceived income security is less important at higher ages for either gender and for women below age 30, especially in the aftermath of the crisis. Men in their early thirties show the lowest fatherhood intentions in a constrained situation.

Contribution: Our findings highlight the continued importance of economic uncertainty for fertility plans, especially for men, who still seem to consider themselves as the primary earner in couples. For young employed women, a secure position is a precondition for first birth, but motherhood appears as attractive alternative to unemployment above age 30, except for Postsocialist and Universal clusters.

Author's Affiliation

Susanne Fahlén - Stockholms Universitet, Sweden [Email]
Livia Sz. Oláh - Stockholms Universitet, Sweden [Email]

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