Fertility is low when there is no agreement on a specific gender role model

Ansgar Hudde, BAGSS, University of Bamberg

Many authors argue that recent rises in fertility in Western Societies can be explained by increases in gender equality and gender equal attitudes, but the mechanisms behind these relations remain unclear. This paper argues that fertility levels are not (only) related to the content of societal gender role attitudes, but to the variation in these attitudes. A great variation in attitudes among potential partners causes uncertainty and conflicts, which decreases people’s propensity to choose parenthood (again). How this idea is tested: macro-level regressions on 23 countries are run in which a measure for the average gender role attitude as well as the dispersion in that attitude are regressed on the level of fertility. This dispersion is measured as the standard deviation of an attitudinal variable, which is computed through factor analysis, in the given country. Attitudinal information is from the ISSP 2012. The analysis gives support to the hypothesis: the greater the variation in gender role attitudes, the lower is the fertility. The association is considerably strong, significant, and holds against various robustness checks. The contribution of this paper is threefold. First, it sheds more light on the mechanism behind the widely discussed relation of gender relations and fertility. Second, it shows how the variation in a variable - independently of its average value or content - matters for a social outcome. Third, it applies a more reliable measure for fertility than most comparative studies, namely completed cohort fertility.

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Presented in Poster Session 1