The impact of the Great Recession on fertility in Europe: a multi-level study

Daniele Vignoli, UniversitĂ  di Firenze
Anna Matysiak, Wittgenstein Centre (IIASA, VID/Ă–AW, WU)
Tomas Sobotka, Vienna Institute of Demography

The global economic recession that started in autumn 2007 in the United States has hit almost all European countries, with many experiencing plummeting GDP and rising unemployment for most of the period of 2008-2012. In line with the past research, the worsening economic conditions and increasing economic uncertainty have been expected to affect fertility. Indeed, aggregate-level studies showed that fertility rates, which were increasing until around 2008 started to decline in most European countries after 2009. Nevertheless, up to now there have been no empirical micro-level studies that assess the effects of the Great Recession on fertility in Europe. This paper aims to address this research gap. In particular, we assess the impact of the aggregate adverse economic conditions caused by the recent economic recession on individual fertility behaviour in the EU member states, Norway, Switzerland and Iceland. We also investigate how the effects of the recession differ by education level and whether the recession has led to widening socio-economic differentials in fertility. We use the EU-SILC survey which allows us to reconstruct birth histories of over 100,000 women in reproductive age with children still living in the household. Our main explanatory variables are country- and region-level indicators of economic uncertainty and employment instability which are merged with the individual level files. Multi-level event history models are estimated separately for childless women and mothers. We expect that the recession has discouraged childbearing, and that it has particularly affected first births. We also anticipate that highly-educated women have limited their childbearing more than the women with lower education during uncertain times.

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Presented in Session 106: The great recession and fertility