Does economic uncertainty affect fertility? Evidence from France

Ariane Pailhé, Institut National d'Études Démographiques (INED)
Anne Solaz, Institut National d'Études Démographiques (INED)

In France, fertility stands at a rather high level despite a high rate of youth unemployment. However, economic conditions are thought to influence the opportunities and constraints for having children at a micro-level. This paper examines the impact of unemployment and insecure working conditions (i.e. flexibility of working hours, temporary/permanent jobs) on the propensity and timing of parenthood. Does an insecure employment spell affect fertility plans? Is fertility merely delayed and is completed fertility also affected? Data comes from the Family and Employer survey (INED 2004-2005). Three aspects of fertility are analyzed i) completed fertility, ii) timing of fertility and iii) intended fertility. Each aspect is analyzed with appropriate methods, i.e. linear regression, survival analysis and logit model. Preliminary results show that an insecure path (insecure job or unemployment) delays female first child timing, but does not affect that of men. Unemployment spells affect negatively completed fertility of both men and women of older cohorts, while insecure job periods do not. For women, unemployment is very different from inactivity: they do not take advantage of unemployment to invest in childbearing. For men, the results are similar but with a higher intensity, since men are socially “expected” to be the main breadwinner. The article emphasizes that female and male childbearing desires do not have the same determinants, because of prevailing social norms. Men’s plans depend on many economic determinants such as the household income and the employment situation of both partners, whereas women’s desire is more difficult to explain. Men with temporary jobs are less eager to start a family, they may wait for a better employment situation. Finally, completed fertility, fertility timing and intended fertility seem to be the result of a negotiation in which the employment uncertainty of each partner do plays a role.

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Presented in Session 9: Economics and Labour Market Issues