Academic journal article Demographic Research

The Interplay of Employment Uncertainty and Education in Explaining Second Births in Europe

Academic journal article Demographic Research

The Interplay of Employment Uncertainty and Education in Explaining Second Births in Europe

Article excerpt


This paper analyzes how labor market instability since the late 1980s in Europe has mediated decisions to have a second child. In particular, I seek to determine the dimensions of economic uncertainty that affect women with different educational backgrounds. First, employing time-varying measures of aggregate market conditions for women in 12 European countries, as well as micro-measures of each woman's labor market history, I find that delays in second births are significant in countries with high unemployment and both among women who are unemployed, particularly the least educated, and those who have temporary jobs. Holding a very short contract is shown to be more critical than unemployment for college graduates. Second, using the 2006 Spanish Fertility Survey, I present remarkably similar findings for Spain, the country with the most dramatic changes in both fertility and unemployment in recent decades: a high jobless rate and the widespread use of limited-duration contracts are found to be correlated with a substantial postponement of second births.

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1. Introduction

Since the late 1980s, European fertility rates have plummeted, particularly in Southern Europe and in German-speaking countries, where rates have fallen to 1.3 or lower in recent years (Kohler, Billari, and Ortega 2002). As has been shown by an extensive body of literature, this general trend has resulted from changes in preferences for small families, family planning, and the demands of dual careers (Becker 1981, Lesthaeghe and Surkyn 1988; Galor and Weil 1996, Bongaarts 2002). The cross-country variation in fertility has been attributed to the nature of the welfare state and its social policies (Esping-Andersen 1999; Gauthier 2007; Andersson, Kreyenfeld, and Mika 2009) and to differences in economic uncertainty (Blossfeld et al. 2005; Kohler, Billari, and Ortega 2002; Adsera 2005, 2011; Sobotka, Skirbekk, and Philipov 2010), among others factors. An additional mechanism leading to the decrease in completed fertility has been delayed motherhood: older mothers are less likely to attain their intended number of children (Morgan 2003). Since the levels of childlessness have not increased much in Europe, and since there are still substantial fertility differences across countries once differential postponement has been taken into account (Sobotka 2004), a better understanding of the variation in second births is warranted. Figure 1 presents the non-parametric estimates of the survivor function of transitions to second births among women in several European Union countries during the 1990s. Cross-country variations in the timing of the second birth are considerable. Women in Portugal, Spain, and Italy are the least likely to have had a second child: five years after their first birth, about 60% have not delivered another baby. By contrast, only around 25% of Finish and Dutch women have not had a second child.

This paper examines the role that economic conditions played in the decisions of women to have more than one child during this time. During the period of analysis, the European labor market was characterized by cycles of high and persistent unemployment, and by an upward trend in the share of temporary employment. In addition to looking at how both the lack of work and some insecurity in a job currently held shaped the choices of women in general, the paper also explores the extent to which labor market instability may relate differently to transitions to a second birth among women with different educational backgrounds.

To this end, the paper undertakes two types of analysis. First, I employ the 1994-2000 waves of the European Community Household Panel (ECPH) for women in 12 European countries to estimate proportional hazard models of second births. The estimations include time-varying measures of aggregate labor market conditions, as well as micro-measures of each woman's labor market history, employment characteristics, and earnings. …

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