Academic journal article Demographic Research

The Influence of a Supportive Environment for Families on Women's Fertility Intentions and Behavior in South Korea

Academic journal article Demographic Research

The Influence of a Supportive Environment for Families on Women's Fertility Intentions and Behavior in South Korea

Article excerpt

1.Introduction

There is a great deal of heterogeneity in fertility levels across advanced countries. Scholars have observed an upturn in total fertility rates in Western countries in the past decade (Goldstein, Sobotka, and Jasilionience 2009; Myrskylä, Kohler, and Billari 2009). In addition, the relationship between trends in female labor force participation and fertility trends changed from negative to positive at the national level in the 1990s (e.g., Brewster and Rindfuss 2000; Del Boca 2002; Morgan 2003; Rindfuss et al. 2007). However, East Asian countries, such as South Korea (hereafter Korea) and Japan, continue to be exceptions to this recent rebound in fertility levels. Scholars explain this cross-national difference in fertility rates in relation to the compatibility between parenthood and labor force participation, augmented by state support to families and gender equality (Billingsley and Ferrarini 2014; Esping-Andersen and Billari 2015; McDonald 2000; Mills et al. 2011; Myrskylä, Kohler, and Billari 2011; Thévenon 2011).

In a comparative study examining the cross-national variation in state support to families, Thévenon (2011) reveals that such support in Southern European countries, Japan, and Korea is characterized by a deficit of policies that enable a balance between work and family for women. Korea is markedly different from countries in the same group that offer similar levels of state support to families: It "clearly lag[s] behind the other OECD countries, whichever type of support is considered" (Thévenon 2011:64).

In a context of limited state support for families, such as the case of Korea, how do women manage work and family balance? What kinds of sources of support do they rely on? In order to meet the varied demands of family, women with children may require support from other sources, including male partners or family networks, when the institutional regimes do not provide strong support (Balbo and Mills 2011). Several studies linking gender equity and fertility show that male partners' participation in housework and childcare positively affects women's fertility intentions, especially within contexts where the societal level of gender equality is low (Mills et al. 2008; Olàh 2003). Scholars have recently explored the effect of support from grandparental childcare on fertility as a potential source of supportive environments to improve the compatibility between work and family (Hank and Buber 2009; Thomése and Liefbroer 2013). However, previous studies have often focused on a single source of a supportive environment for family, either from the state, male partners, or extended family, and the impact of such a source on fertility (Harknett, Billari, and Medalia 2014). Few studies have comprehensively evaluated varying sources of support for the family and how they relate to fertility decision-making in an analysis at the individual level.

I aim to fill in this gap in the literature by examining the influence of three sources of a supportive environment for the family on women's fertility intentions and behavior. I situate the Korean case in a broader discussion on the nuanced relationship between access to family support and fertility in a context lacking institutional support for childrearing, embedded in low levels of gender equality. Using data from the three waves of the Korean Longitudinal Survey of Women & Families from 2007 to 2010, I examine whether three sources of a supportive environment for families - the state, husbands, and parents or in-laws - influence fertility intentions and fertility behavior for married women with one child. My analysis focuses on second births, given the cultural context of a rapid transition to first birth within the first years of marriage in Korea (Statistics Korea 2015).2 Moreover, this analysis enables me to examine the impact on second births of existing childcare support from the three sources of a supportive environment for the family (Thomése and Liefbroer 2013). …

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