The short term and the long term effect of fertility on subjective well-being in Hungary

Márta Radó, Corvinus University of Budapest

This paper aims to answer to how fertility affects subjective well-being in the short run and in longer run as well. This issue have received considerable interest from policy makers who are concerned about the declining fertility rate. Although, growing number of international studies have analyzed how fertility affect the individual’s well-being in the short run, there is still a vacant scholarship about the long term effects. However, extending the research to a longer lifespan would enable us to gain deeper understanding of motivations for having a child. This analysis is based on the dataset of the Turning Points of Life Course program (Hungarian GGS), which is a longitudinal research program (between 2001, 2004 and 2012). Since the effect of fertility mainly measured by observational data, ruling out confounding variables plays a key role in the analysis. In case of the short term effect matching method is applied on the longitudinal data. However, this method cannot be employed for estimating long term effect due to the absence of sufficiently long longitudinal dataset. Therefore, this paper uses a random proxy variable to overcome the methodological challenges, namely, the gender of the child. This variable captures the quality of the relationship between child and elderly parents (based on gender socialization, social support, and normative expectations theories) instead of the quantity of children. Female children tend to provide more support for the elderly parents than males; thus, the gender of the children is a good proxy for having a grateful child. Broadly speaking, the present paper has found that fertility initially increases the subjective well-being in a large extent; however, this effect decline with time. Moreover, the analysis of the long term effect of fertility has shown that children may become a new source of subjective well-being as the parents get older.

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 Presented in Session 51. European fertility