Academic journal article Demographic Research

Childbearing Dynamics of Couples in a Universalistic Welfare State: The Role of Labor-Market Status, Country of Origin, and Gender

Academic journal article Demographic Research

Childbearing Dynamics of Couples in a Universalistic Welfare State: The Role of Labor-Market Status, Country of Origin, and Gender

Article excerpt

Abstract

This article studies childbearing dynamics by labor-market status of co-residing parents in Sweden. We apply event-history techniques to longitudinal register data on the life histories of foreign-born mothers from ten different countries and the partners to these women, as well as to a sample of Swedish-born mothers and their partners. The context is a universalistic welfare state geared towards gender and social equality where formal social rights are largely independent of a person's civil status, citizenship, and country of origin. We investigate the extent to which the associations of parents' labor-market status with childbearing in Sweden differ between women and men and by country of origin. We find that the patterns of association are fairly similar on both of these individual dimensions. As measured by the way the labor-market activity of parents is related to their subsequent childbearing, we find evidence of equality by gender and at least some evidence of integration of immigrants into the dynamics of Swedish society.

1. Introduction

In family-demographic research, Sweden frequently serves as a point of reference. Three reasons can be attributed to this: Sweden and its Nordic neighbors often have been forerunners in the development of new trends in family-demographic behavior. Both have very reliable demographic data that enable researchers to detect and analyze such behavior. Finally, they have been innovative in terms of policy development aimed at enhancing the reconciliation of work and family life. Fertility research commonly relates the relatively high Nordic fertility to the setup of the policies pursued in these countries and the characteristics of the Nordic welfare regime. Policies aimed at strengthening female labor-market attachment and promoting gender equality have made it easier for women to combine work and family life (see, e.g., B. Hoem 1993, Bernhard 1993). Previous research on childbearing dynamics in the Nordic countries indicates a high degree of compatibility between individual labor-market activity and family building as both women and men tend to get established in the labor market before having children, and as they remain there after having become parents. Demographic studies on these countries reveal a positive association between women's labor-market attachment and childbearing (Kravdal 1994, Andersson 2000, Vikat 2004), and this association is often seen in light of the existing welfare-state setup. In Nordic parental-leave policies, for example, benefits are based on prior earnings, thus they are likely to strengthen the tendency of young people to get established in the labor market before they consider having children. By the same token, access to affordable high-quality childcare enables women to remain in the labor market after having become a parent; and individual taxation removes many of the incentives of couples to pursue a strongly gendered division of labor-market and home-care activity.

This article extends previous research on labor-market attachment and childbearing in Sweden by looking at associations of fertility with labor-market activity for mothers and fathers stemming from different birth countries. The purpose is to see whether or not there are differentials among them in such associations. Sweden is a universalistic welfare state where social rights are largely granted to individuals irrespective of their civil and family status, with a fundamental purpose of promoting gender equality. To a large extent, formal social rights also are independent of citizenship and country of origin, as most rights are tied simply to legal residence in the country. In this article, we study whether or not there is evidence of any equalizing impact of the Swedish context on the childbearing dynamics of immigrant parents. We also aim to gain deeper insights into the gendered patterns of childbearing behavior in Sweden by labor-market attachment. …

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