Education, Employment and Fertility. a Multilevel Analysis

Saturday, 4 July 2015: 10:15 AM-11:45 AM
TW1.2.04 (Tower One)
Daniela Bellani, UPF, Barcelona, Spain
Fertility research has routinely found that educational attainment is negatively related to childbearing. Education delays the entry into motherhood (the tempo effect) and is associated with having, on average, fewer children (the quantum effect). This would seem to fit very well with the theoretical predictions in Becker's (1981) model. It is also what the adherents of a postmodernist perspective would expect since the highly educated should be the vanguard of individualistic value preferences.

And, yet, in parallel to the divorce literature, recent studies suggest that the educational gradient of fertility is weakening and perhaps even disappearing. The aim of this paper is to investigate the influence of labour market characteristics on the (changing) relationship between education and fertility (quantum) from a comparative angle.

We examine micro-macro interactions, in order to study how the (micro-level) effect of education affects the intention of having another child within different macro-level settings. The puzzle is why fertility is rising among highly educated and falling among less educated women in some countries (Scandinavia) but not in others (Southern Europe). There is substantial evidence that labour market and welfare policies play a central role in this respect – in particular policies that support working mothers. Recent advances in fertility research demonstrate that women’s childbearing depends less on the male partner’s earnings power and more on their own opportunity cost perceptions.  Hence, childcare support and maternity leaves can be decisive for fertility intentions, especially for higher educated women. Similarly, labour market characteristics that help reconcile work-family conflicts may help lower the higher opportunity costs of motherhood for women with tertiary level of education. In this sense, this paper provides an original contribution to the analysis of the link between education and fertility by introducing empirical measures of institutional factors that might influence the educational gradient of fertility.

To examine how such characteristics affect fertility – in particular for higher educated women, we will analyze the intention to have another child considering characteristics such as the opportunity to work part-time, the availability of public sector jobs, and the incidence of temporary contracts. Analyzing the data from the 2004/5 Round of European Social Survey we test the links between level of education and fertility intentions in a variety of labour market settings.

We found that a high incidence of part time employment is positive and significantly associated with the intention of having higher order births. 

The availability of public sector jobs seems to be a key factor that pushes higher educated women towards motherhood. In countries where there is a large public sector, in Scandinavia par excellence, higher educated women are more likely to want another child. The public sector tends to have shorter workdays, more flexible time schedules, and is more tolerant of long parental leaves than is the private sector in general, and sectors with strong male competition in particular.