Volume 41 - Article 22 | Pages 617–648

An exploration of differences in ideal family size between Muslim and non-Muslim women in France

By Julia Behrman, Jeylan Erman

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Date received:17 Feb 2019
Date published:03 Sep 2019
Word count:7589
Keywords:fertility, France, ideal family size, religion


Background: The paper explores why Muslim women in France have, on average, higher ideal family sizes than non-Muslim women to better understand the socioeconomic and sociocultural factors that underlie Muslim women’s higher desired and realized fertility.

Methods: This paper uses a sample of 9,456 female respondents from the 2008/2009 French Trajectories and Origins (TeO) survey. Two-tailed independent sample t-tests are used to estimate differences in fertility ideals, contraceptive behaviors, and background characteristics between Muslim and non-Muslim respondents. Nested mediation and decomposition analyses are used to explore the factors that explain the gap in the ideal family size between Muslims and non-Muslims.

Results: Muslim women have, on average, higher ideal family sizes than non-Muslim women, which can largely be explained by higher religiosity and higher numbers of siblings (the latter proxies for norms favoring large families). On the other hand, differences in socioeconomic status and migration status are less important in explaining Muslim women’s higher ideal family sizes.

Contribution: French Muslim women’s higher ideal family sizes are not anomalies but can be contextualized within a larger set of patterns common to more religious women from diverse religious backgrounds, such as high religiosity and family norms prioritizing large family sizes.

Author's Affiliation

Julia Behrman - Northwestern University, United States of America [Email]
Jeylan Erman - University of Pennsylvania, United States of America [Email]

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