Planning to have a child: a socially conditioned decision? – Evidence from the European Social Survey (Round 2) for Spain and Portugal

Maria Mendes, University of Evora
José Santos, Escola Superior de Ciências Empresariais do Instituto Politécnico de Setúbal

In a demographic situation characterized by exceptionally low period fertility levels, can we say that the social background of individuals is crucial for the planning of their future childbearing? In what way does it interfere in the shape of the expected fertility trend? Facing a very low fertility level in the last decades, the European Southern Countries, particularly Spain and Portugal, belong to the group that presents the lowest-low fertility, according to the terminology adopted by Kohler, Billari and Ortega (2002). We believe that both the future level of period fertility and its evolutionary trend will be related to the manner the future parents (mothers and fathers) will face their fertility decision. That decision making in the forthcoming times could be associated with some specific behaviour patterns, socially differentiated, according to age, educational level, marital status and level of participation in the labour market. Assuming that values, attitudes and beliefs also influence the fertility decision, we used data from the European Social Survey (Round 2) to analyse the young people characteristics which could be more relevant to explain the intention of upcoming childbearing. We have found that, nowadays, in Spain and Portugal, to be married, to participate in the labour market and to have tertiary education still increases the probability of being a parent in the next future. We can expect that the mean age of childbirth will remain high because we found that this probability rises for the age’s bracket 25 to 29 years and it is slightly higher for those aged 30 to 34 years. The Spaniards have shown higher probabilities than the Portuguese, for all the fertile ages.

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Presented in Session 81: Low Fertility in Southern Europe