Micro-determinants of childlessness in Europe: a cross-gender and cross-country study

Maria-Letizia Tanturri, Università di Padova
Annalisa Donno, Università di Padova
Cristina Faludi, Babes-Bolyai University
Anneli Miettinen, Väestöliitto
Anna Rotkirch, Väestöliitto
Ivett Szalma, Swiss Centre of Expertise in the Social Sciences

During the last decades, childlessness has grown substantially in most of the low-fertility areas of Europe. The phenomenon has increasingly attracted the interest of both academic researchers and policy makers. Childlessness implies several consequences through its effects on individual life, and on population dynamics. The childless lifestyle enhances satisfaction for individuals who voluntarily chose not to have children, while diminishing it for those who consider parenthood as a personal goal. It contributes in lowering low birth rates further and in fostering population ageing. Policy makers are thus concerned about the causes of growing childlessness rates, because of its demographic and socio-economic impact. Beyond the increase of the proportion of voluntarily childlessness, the recent growth of childlessness has come about mainly because of the postponement of childbearing. Assessing the reasons of those changes can help addressing targeted policies for the phenomenon reduction. Literature suggests that the factors influencing childlessness are somewhat different from those affecting low fertility in general, but it is not clear how childlessness is associated with individual characteristics and how it spreads across social classes. This study is the first one analysing micro-level determinants of childlessness in a plurality of countries (Eastern, Northern, Central and Southern Europe), characterised by diverse socioeconomic and value background, different welfare regimes and varying childlessness prevalence. The originality of this paper lays in the approach: studying the determinants of childlessness in a gender and life course perspective. Moreover, we seek to identify the factors associated with persistency regarding the decision to remain childless. Binary and multinomial regression model are used. Results show commonalities among the factors behind postponement and definitive childlessness and unexpectedly in the determinants of women’s and men’s childlessness. Also country-specific effects emerge.

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Presented in Session 112: Childlessness