Academic journal article Demographic Research

Regional Child Care Availability and Fertility Decisions in Spain

Academic journal article Demographic Research

Regional Child Care Availability and Fertility Decisions in Spain

Article excerpt


In this paper I explore two hypotheses: (1) Formal childcare availability for children under 3 has a positive effect on fertility; and (2) Formal childcare availability has different effects across contexts, according to the degree of adaptation of social institutions to changes in gender roles. Event history models with regional fixed effects are applied to data from the European Community Household Panel (1994-2001). The results show a significant and positive effect of regional day care availability on both first and higher order births, while results are consistent with the second hypothesis only for second or higher order births.

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1. Introduction

A growing body of research points to the crucial role of the social context, and in particular certain institutions such as parental leave policies, labor market arrangements, and access to affordable childcare, in allowing the combination of childrearing and employment. The Spanish context is characterized not only by low day care availability overall, but also by important regional differentials in fertility and female labor force participation. Furthermore, during the last few decades, labor force participation of women and the proportion of children under 3 in childcare have increased substantially, while fertility has shown only small increases at the aggregate level since the mid-1990s.

The specification of relationships between these variables form the core of the existing theoretical arguments that support the hypothesis that childcare availability has a positive effect on fertility, since day care is presumed to influence principally through reducing the conflict between labor force participation and childrearing (e.g. Ermisch 1989; Bernhardt 1993). In spite of well-founded theoretical arguments, previous empirical studies focusing on the association between availability of childcare services and fertility have provided inconsistent findings (e.g. Kravdal 1996; Hank and Kreyenfeld 2003; Andersson, Duvander, and Hank, 2004; Del Boca 2002; Rindfuss et al. 2007). According to Rindfuss et al. (2007), these mixed findings may be due to the false assumption that childcare is an exogenous variable with respect to fertility. Yet the coverage rate of day care may to a certain degree be endogenous to fertility and other (unobserved) characteristics of a given place, such as particular values, income, or labor force participation. This may be particularly the case in countries, such as Spain, with large regional variations in fertility, female employment rate, and day care coverage for children under 3 (in Spain, some regions have provisions of less than 5%, while others have currently reached nearly 45%). This study's focus is on the years 1993-2000, a period in which enrolment between ages 3 and 5 were essentially universal, while the coverage rate for children under 3 was (and still is) very heterogeneous at the regional level, and where enrolment for the latter age group increased rapidly in some regions, in connection with particular regional policies.

The results obtained show a significant and positive effect of regional day care availability on fertility. This result is robust to several specifications of the model with respect to individual as well as regional variables.

2. Fertility and childcare

Different theoretical perspectives, including those of welfare regimes perspectives, neoclassic economics, and theories of cultural norms and individual values, offer insight into the link between childcare and fertility. A brief discussion of some key arguments of these approaches may be useful to evaluate how childcare availability can be related to fertility, and particularly in which situations it may matter most. As will be explained, all these theoretical perspectives basically lead to the hypothesis that an increased level of regional availability of childcare should lead to higher fertility at the individual level. …

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