Volume 41 - Article 45 | Pages 1277–1288 Editor's Choice

Is a positive association between female employment and fertility still spurious in developed countries?

By Takashi Oshio

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Date received:06 Jun 2019
Date published:21 Nov 2019
Word count:2213
Keywords:female labor force participation, fixed effects, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), total fertility rate (TFR)


Background: The cross-sectional association between female employment and fertility across developed countries turned from negative to positive during the mid-1980s. The conventional view is that the observed positive association is spurious owing to country-specific heterogeneity.

Objective: We revisit the validity of this view using recent data up to 2017 from 24 countries belonging to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Methods: Based on the data downloaded from the OECD database, we estimate the time-series association between the female labor force participation rate (FLFP) and total fertility rate (TFR) by fixed-effects regression models, which can control for country-specific heterogeneity.

Results: The more recent the data set used, the more likely it is that the time-series correlation will be positive between FLFP and TFR, even after controlling for country-specific heterogeneity. We also observe that public spending on families, especially in the form of benefits in kind, starts increasing once FLFP becomes sufficiently high.

Conclusions: A positive correlation between female employment and fertility in developed countries is no longer attributable to country-specific heterogeneity. The results are supportive of the view that higher female employment can make socioinstitutional contexts more favorable for childbearing, leading to a positive association between FLFP and TFR.

Contribution: This study underscored the need for further investigation of the association between female employment and fertility, which is likely to have changed in recent decades.

Author's Affiliation

Takashi Oshio - Hitotsubashi University, Japan [Email]

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