Partners’ relative incomes and fertility intentions

Agnese Vitali, University of Southampton
Maria Rita Testa, Wittgenstein Centre (IIASA, VID/ÖAW, WU)

The role of gender roles in the reproductive decision-making has been so far under-investigated, especially for what concerns fertility intentions, i.e. the strongest predictors of reproductive behaviour. This paper studies the association between changing gender roles and fertility intentions in Europe by looking at the role of relative incomes among partners, a measure worth of investigation given that between 10-30% of couples in developed countries today are such that women out-earn their partners. On the basis of the economic theory and the gender theory of fertility, we expect the association between short-term fertility intentions and the share of the household income provided by the female partner to be negative. We use data from the European Social Survey, round 2 and 5 (2004/2005 and 2010/11, respectively) and model the probability of intending to have a child in the next 3 years using logistic regression models. The main explanatory variable is the couple’s income arrangement (male breadwinner, equal incomes, female breadwinner). Results suggest that there exists a statistically significant association between the share of the household income provided by the woman and her short-term fertility intentions. In particular, in the majority of countries female breadwinners are less likely to intend having a child if they are childless if compared to women who contribute an equal or a lower share of the household income. Among women with one or more children, instead, female breadwinners are more likely to intend having a child compared to women who contribute the same or a lower share of the household income with respect to their partners. Hence, contrary to the expectations drawn from previous studies, women who contribute more income than their partners not necessarily have lower fertility intentions if compared to women who contribute an equal or a lower share, or do not contribute any income.

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 Presented in Session 55. Fertility preferences 3