Academic journal article Family Relations

His and Her Job: What Matters Most for Fertility Plans and Actual Childbearing?

Academic journal article Family Relations

His and Her Job: What Matters Most for Fertility Plans and Actual Childbearing?

Article excerpt

This study examines workplace culture and fertility plans and transitions in Sweden. This study goes beyond previous research in examining the effect of particular job characteristics as well as the influence of a partner's job characteristics on women's and men's birth plans and transitions. We use data from the 1999 and 2003 Swedish Young Adult Panel Study. Results indicate that men are more likely to intend to have a child if their partner's job makes it easy to take parental leave or work part-time. Women are more likely to intend to have a child if their partner's job pays well. In addition, men whose job pays well are more likely to have a child. This research suggests that family-friendly policies may enhance fertility indirectly through men's fertility decision making.

Key Words: childbearing decision making, family policy, gender, Sweden, workplace policies.

Sweden is the prototype of the Social Democratic welfare state, with public policies reflecting its strong commitment to gender equality based on ideals of women and men sharing paid work and family responsibilities (Oláh & Bernhardt, 2008). Gender equality is promoted by family policies such as the parental leave system, introduced in the mid-1970s, and in the provision of subsidized, high-quality public day care enabling women and men to combine employment and parenthood. Nevertheless, gender differences in part-time work and uptake of family leave suggest that gender equality has not been fully reached but rather exists as "gender equality light" (Ronsen & Skrede, 2010). In addition, employer attitudes regarding men taking long parental leave are not universally positive (Brandth & Kvande, 2005, as cited in Ronsen & Skrede, 2010). Therefore, it is important to understand how perceptions of the workplace and work policy might affect fertility intentions and behavior.

The current study sought to address whether family-friendly policies at one's place of employment affect one's birth plans and transitions. In addition, we examined the influence of family-friendly policies at a partner's work on fertility. Do people consider how they and their partner might combine work and family when making fertility decisions? Do workplace policies, as experienced by individuals and their partners, have an impact on fertility? Previous research often overlooked the impact of employer policies and benefits (Gauthier, 2007). This study goes beyond previous research in examining the effect of particular workplace characteristics on women's and men's birth plans and transitions. Additionally, we considered a partner's workplace characteristics as potentially important influences on fertility.

Using data from the Swedish Young Adult Panel Study (YAPS), a longitudinal study designed to measure young adults' family attitudes, decisions, and behaviors, we were able to investigate fertility intentions in the late 1990s and following fertility outcomes in the mid20008. We focused on individuals' and partners' workplace characteristics in order to determine how perceptions about family-friendly policy influence young men and women as they make decisions about having a child. Given the focus on gender equality within Sweden, we also sought to understand whether there are gender differences in the effects of workplace characteristics related to parental leave, parttime work, and pay. Before turning to our results, we review previous literature on the association between employment and fertility, the potential impact of policy, and the Swedish context.

Previous Literature

People arrive at decisions about life course transitions balancing preferences against resources. Economic and other resources set the outer limits within which attitudes and values determine individual choices, for example, about the transition to parenthood. Rational choice theory is based on the underlying premise of individual choice, that people evaluate the anticipated costs and benefits of a specific action before making a decision (Pollak & Watkins, 1993). …

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