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The Impact of Family Policies on Fertility Trends in Developed Countries: L’influence des politiques familiales sur les tendances de la fécondité des pays développés

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We examine how strongly fertility trends respond to family policies in OECD countries. In the light of the recent fertility rebound observed in several OECD countries, we empirically test the impact of different family policy instruments on fertility, using macro panel data from 18 OECD countries that spans the years 1982–2007. Our results confirm that each instrument of the family policy package (paid leave, childcare services and financial transfers) has a positive influence on average, suggesting that the combination of these forms of support for working parents during their children’s early years is likely to facilitate parents’ choice to have children. Policy levers do not all have the same weight, however: in-cash benefits covering childhood after the year of childbirth and the provision of childcare services for children under age three have a larger potential influence on fertility than leave entitlements and benefits granted around childbirth. Moreover, we find that the influence of each policy measure varies across different family policy contexts. Our findings are robust after controlling for birth postponement, endogeneity, time-lagged fertility reactions and for different aspects of national contexts, such as female labour market participation, unemployment, labour market protection and the proportion of children born out of marriage.
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... These consequences include longer periods of breastfeeding (Berger et al., 2005;Baker and Milligan, 2008;Khanam et al., 2016;Albagli and Rau, 2018), lower mortality rates among infants and young children (Winegarden and Bracy, 1995;Ruhm, 2000;Tanaka, 2005;Fallon et al., 2017;Heymann et al., 2017), higher childhood vaccination rates (Daku et al., 2012;Khanam et al., 2016;Heymann et al., 2017) and, for mothers, better post-partum physical and mental health (Aitken et al., 2015, and literature cited therein). Research also suggests that ML has a positive effect on fertility (Winegarden and Bracy, 1995;Averett and Whittington, 2001;Risse, 2006;Luci-Greulich and Thévenon, 2013). ...
... Economic theory suggests that ML will increase TFR by reducing the opportunity cost of childbearing (Becker, 1960). This effect will be strengthened by any work-life balance policies that reduce the indirect costs of having children, and there is evidence that such policies are associated with higher fertility in industrialised countries (Gauthier and Hatzius, 1997;Hilgeman and Butts, 2009;Luci-Greulich and Thévenon, 2013). Our third hypothesis is therefore as follows: ...
... Higher female employment rates may lead to lower TFR through an increase in the opportunity cost of maternal time (Winegarden and Bracy, 1995;Ruhm, 2000;Luci-Greulich and Thévenon, 2013). ...
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Analysing macro-panel data from 18 African and Asian countries over the period 1995-2016, this article investigates the effects of the level and duration of paid maternity leave on three dimensions of human development: fertility, female formal-sector employment and infant mortality. There is some evidence that, on average, extending the duration of leave leads to reductions in infant mortality and employment. However, there is no conclusive evidence that leave duration has a direct effect on fertility. In contrast, there is some evidence that higher maternity leave payments lead to higher fertility, but no evidence that payment levels have any effect on infant mortality or employment. [Social Science and Medicine, forthcoming]
... Key efforts include bonuses and tax breaks for having more children, and more generous provision of child care services which make having children easier. By now, policymakers have a good sense of what works for permanently raising fertility levels in developed nations (Björklund 2006;Luci-Greulich and Thévenon 2013;Reibstein 2017): comprehensive Nordic-style policies that make work-life balance easier for women and couples, combined with strong economic safety nets generally and more egalitarian societies (Thévenon and Gauthier 2011;Balbo et al. 2013;Pollmann-Schult 2018). 6 We have also learned which policies only provide a short-term boost to fertility rates (by influencing only the timing of child-bearing, not the completed fertility), or that do not work at all. ...
... Under these egalitarian scenarios, which could look very different in their policy details from one country to another, we predict TFRs will rise by either +0.15 (for a relatively strong effort) or +0.3 (for an even stronger, more comprehensive and more expensive effort) compared to the status quo scenario among all countries (lower, medium and higher fertility). There is much disagreement among demographers about the effectiveness of policy in influencing fertility (Gauthier et al. 2013;Luci-Greulich and Thévenon 2013;Potts 2013). We believe these scenarios represent a conservative yet reasonable estimate of the potential impact of familyfriendly, economically-egalitarian policies on national fertility rates, at least for lower and medium fertility countries. ...
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This working paper presents new population projections out to 2100 for the countries of the European Union and for the EU as a whole under a wide range of fertility and migration scenarios. As policy-based projections, they aspire not to maximize predictive success regarding what will happen, but to accurately show the impact on overall numbers of different migration and socioeconomic policy choices, with the aim of clarifying those choices for European policymakers and citizens. Among key results, we find that demographic policies have the potential to significantly increase or decrease future populations across the EU. Migration policy offers greater scope for influencing future population numbers than policies aimed at influencing national fertility rates. However, in countries with particularly low fertility rates or high emigration levels, egalitarian economic and family support policies have the potential to limit future population decreases to some extent. In most cases, EU nations are well placed to stabilize or slowly reduce their populations-thus achieving one of the necessary conditions for creating ecologically sustainable societies. Potential environmental benefits of smaller populations include a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and increased opportunities for biodiversity conservation.
... The relevance of this literature for vertical inequality lies, of course, in the profound consequences of having children for employment, division of labor within households, and the way equivalent income per household member is calculated. Both work-family reconciliation policies (paid leave, childcare) and financial support policies to families with children (child benefits) were found associated with higher fertility in a panel study covering 18 OECD countries from 1982to 2007(Luci-Greulich & Thévenon, 2013similar conclusion in: Chapter 9 by Adema, Clarke, and Thévenon;Diprete, Mogan, Engelhardt, and Pacalova, 2003;Rovny, 2011). However, such associations were generally small and not differentiated by for instance education and income, which would be required for the study of vertical inequality. ...
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This chapter develops a research agenda for examining family policy outcomes with respect to vertical economic inequality between households, arguing that family policies have wrongly been neglected as a determinant of vertical economic inequality. Three questions are central to this research agenda: who uses family policy, to what income effect, and with whom do people live? Family policies have been linked to women’s employment and earnings, and to lower vertical income inequality. Yet, the literature also makes abundantly clear that family policies come with trade-offs along the lines of gender and class, as well as Matthew effects. These mechanisms need to be better understood to integrate family policy in analyses of—and recommendation against—high and rising inequality. The challenge ahead is to understand what (combination of) family policies may be inclusive to a wide range of families across the full width of the income distribution.
... In response to concerns about low fertility, governments in some countries have implemented a range of pronatalist policies and programs, most of which have been only modestly successful at best (Luci-Greulich & Thévenon, 2013). Sociological and demographic research suggests that gendered social institutions and social norms, and the role incompatibility generated by these systems, are a central determinant of childbearing (Billingsley & Ferrarini, 2014;Goldscheider, Bernhardt, & Lappegård, 2015;McDonald, 2000). ...
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Objective: This article reviews research from the past decade on patterns, trends, and differentials in the pathway to parenthood. Background: Whether, and under what circumstances, people become parents has implications for individual identity, family relationships, the well-being of adults and children, and population growth and age structure. Understanding the factors that influence pathways to parenthood is central to the study of families and can inform policies aimed at changing childbearing behaviors. Method: This review summarizes recent trends in fertility as well as research on the predictors and correlates of childbearing, with a focus on the United States and on research most relevant to family scholars. We document fertility differentials and prevailing explanations for variation across sub-groups and discuss alternative pathways to parenthood, such as adoption. The article suggests avenues for future research, outlines emerging theoretical developments, and concludes with a discussion of fertility policy. Results: U.S. fertility has declined in recent years; whether fertility rates will increase is unclear. Elements of the broader social context such as the Great Recession and increasing economic inequality have impacted pathways to parenthood, and there is growing divergence in behaviors across social class. Scholars of childbearing have developed theories to better understand how childbearing is shaped by life course processes and social context. Conclusion: Future research on the pathways to parenthood should continue to study group differentials, refine measurement and theories, and better integrate men and couples. Childbearing research is relevant for social policy, but ideological factors impact the application of research to policy.
... The question of when couples decide to become parents is a numerously revised topic in demographic research, especially in the context of the rise of the dual earner model in the developed world. The past decades have experienced a growing body of research assessing the context-contingency of fertility, devoting particular attention to the role of policies aimed at the reconciliation of work and family life, such as formal childcare, parental leave schemes, or outsourcing of household work (Gauthier, 2007;Luci-Greulich & Thévenon, 2013;Raz-Yurovich, 2014). With respect to formal childcare, the literature addresses the hypothesis that -in contexts that support work-family combination through easy access to formal childcare like Scandinavian countries, France or Belgium -the tension between work and family is more moderate compared to contexts with weaker work-family policies, such as in Southern Europe (Matysiak & Vignoli, 2008;Wood et al., 2014). ...
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Although the hypothesis that formal childcare reconciles work and family life-and thus stimulates the transition into parenthood-is theoretically well-grounded and partially empirically supported, available literature has hitherto insufficiently acknowledged differential effects by population subgroups. This is remarkable as population subgroups are likely to exhibit different labour market opportunities and opportunity costs of childbearing, varying attitudes toward work-family combination and the use of formal childcare, and differential institutional knowledge with respect to formal childcare. Using unique register-data for the complete residential Belgian population at the turn of the century, this study applies random and fixed effects hazard models to assess varying associations between local childcare availability and dual earner fertility by level of education, working hours and migration background. Results indicate that lagged variation in childcare coverage across and within municipalities over time is positively associated to first birth hazards for all types of dual earner couples. Whereas varying effects by level of education indicate social differentiation in the sense that the positive impact of local childcare coverage is stronger for highly educated couples, differences by working hours and migration background are more limited and non-significant. The Belgian context provides an excellent laboratory to address this topic for two reasons. First, as a result of its top-ranked position with respect to formal childcare during the 2000s, the results are of interest to countries with lower formal childcare coverage. Second, Belgium exhibits considerable social differentials in labour market opportunities, the uptake and benefits of formal childcare.
... The assessment of the effectiveness of work-family reconciliation policies in terms of female employment and fertility has been high on the social demographic research agenda for decades. However, the ever-growing available body of research remains inconclusive, with varying effects of formal childcare and parental leave depending on the policy design features and the context considered ( Andersson et al. 2004;Gauthier 2007;Hank and Kreyenfeld 2003;Luci-Greulich and Thévenon 2013;Neyer and Andersson 2008;Wood and Neels 2019). ...
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Parental leave schemes undoubtedly facilitate the combination of work and family life during leave-taking. In addition to this instantaneous effect of parental leave uptake, a growing yet limited body of research addresses the question of subsequent effects of parental leave uptake. As work-family policies, such as parental leave, are geared towards stimulating family formation and (female) employment, this study assessed whether the individual uptake of parental leave by employed mothers after the birth of a child yielded differential parity progression and employment patterns compared to eligible employed mothers that did not take leave. Using data from the Belgian Administrative Socio-Demographic panel, we applied dynamic propensity score matching and hazard models. Our results indicate that previous leave uptake is a differentiating factor in subsequent fertility and employment outcomes, but also that (self-)selection strongly affects this relation. Descriptive analyses indicate that mothers who use leave shortly after childbearing exhibit a similar progression to second births, more third births and less fourth births, while displaying substantially lower hazards of exiting the labour force regardless of parity. However, when controlling for the fact that mothers who use parental leave exhibit a stronger pre-birth attachment to the labour force, work for larger employers in specific employment sectors, and also differ from non-users in terms of household characteristics (e.g., higher household income, more likely to be married and less likely to have a non-Belgian background), many associations between leave uptake and subsequent fertility and employment outcomes turn neutral or even negative. No indication for higher parity progression among leave users was found and the hazard of exiting the labour force was moderately higher for leave users. These empirical results are discussed in the Belgian context of low parental leave benefits, short leave entitlements and low uptake of parental leave, features which are also displayed by other Western European countries and contrast with the Nordic European countries studied in previous research.
... The Nordic countries have been forerunners in promoting gender equality and in implementing policies that facilitate the workfamily balance for women and for men. However, the results of studies on the link between policies, gender equality, and fertility also show that this association is sensitive to which policies are included and how they are measured (see, for example, Gauthier and Hatzius 1997;Kalwij 2010;Luci-Greulich and Thévenon 2013;Billingsley and Ferrarini 2014). In this paper, we concentrate on one of the core fertility-related, gender-equality, and work-care policies, namely, parental leave. ...
... Flexible systems that support women to have a child when they are a student and let them return to school after childbirth may facilitate childbearing (16). Based on the literature, policies to reconcile work and family are very important to help women to balance work and family (17). As Mills et al. reported, women want to postpone childbearing until graduation and achievement of occupational and economic stability, due to difficulties in balancing education and maternal responsibilities (11). ...
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Background In Iran, the total fertility rate is 1.8 and it is especially low in highly educated women. Also, there is a considerable difference between the ideal and realized fertility in this sub-population. Clear knowledge on the barriers to achieve the ideal family size is necessary to formulate policies. Objective The study aimed at explaining the barriers of childbearing in this sub-population. Methods This was a qualitative study using conventional content analysis. The study was conducted from April 2015 to January 2016 across the colleges of Kerman University of Medical Sciences in the southeast of Iran. The study population consisted of PhD students and faculty members who were studying and working in this university. We used semi-structured interviews to collect data. The sampling procedure was purposeful sampling and it continued until data saturation was achieved. Conventional content analysis was performed to analyze the gathered data. Results Twenty two participants took part, all of whom were married and half of whom were women. Eight of the participants were faculty members and the rest were PhD students. Two categories were extracted, including lake of enabling environment and personal preferences as the main barriers to childbearing in the highly educated subpopulation. Each of the categories included corresponding secondary and primary categories. Conclusions Different factors affect childbearing decision making in highly educated people. Taking into account these barriers is important at the time of formulating pro-natalist policies.
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In this paper we study how population aging impacts the age distribution of the voting electorate and voters' choices over childcare subsidies. We build a computable general equilibrium framework populated by heterogeneous agents who, over the course of their life-cycle, make endogenous and age-dependent fertility choices. The model is calibrated to match economic and population outcomes of the Italian economy. Child support favors young and fertile cohorts but can also impact all population subgroups through changes in prices, income taxation and population growth. A probabilistic voting model is used to measure voting outcomes over a range of childcare subsidy levels and tax policies. Our findings show that childcare subsidies have a positive impact on the total fertility rate and are welfare improving when financed with both capital and labor income taxation and in combination with lower pension contribution rates. A 10 percent increase in the level of subsidies can increase the population growth rate by an average of 0.47-0.70 percentage points. We find that voting choices of different population subgroups, while depending on the tax used to finance new expenditure, lead to lower levels of childcare subsidies, lower fertility rates and to a demographic 'trap'.
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