Labour market integration and fertility decisions: a comparison of Germany and the UK

Publication type

Conference Paper


BHPS-2005 Conference: the 2005 British Household Panel Survey Research Conference, 30 June -2 July 2005, Colchester, UK


Publication date

June 1, 2005


The transition to parenthood currently takes place at a later stage in the life-course
than it did a few decades ago. The tendency to postpone parenthood has lead to an
increase in age at first birth as well as permanent childlessness. In this context, one
common hypothesis is that family formation for most couples only becomes an option
after an initial integration into the labour market has been established. The aim of this
paper is to investigate this hypothesis by looking at the timing of first birth decisions
after leaving the educational system. The analysis focuses on two major research
questions: Firstly, how is the timing of first parenthood related to labour market
performance? Secondly, can we identify differences in first birth risks depending on
individual labour market performance? In other words, to what extent do successfully
integrated persons differ with respect to their fertility decisions from those who are
poorly integrated?
Integral to the analysis is the cross-national comparison of the relevance of
institutional settings (labour market and social policy) and their impact on family
formation. Thus we compare the continental conservative German system with the
liberal welfare state of the UK. In order to account for differences in opportunity costs
for men and women with respect to fertility transitions and to explore gender specific
effects, we estimate separate models for men and women. Furthermore, we
conceptualize the initial transition to parenthood as a result of a rational as well as
biographical planning process. Therefore individual biographical indicators which we
assume to have an inherent effect on fertility decisions (like gender role beliefs or
values of family orientation) as well as indicators with an imminent effect (such as
income) are taken into account in the empirical model. We also consider education,
income and employment status of a given person's significant other. This is done as
we assume fertility decisions to depend on labour supply and labour market
performance of both partners.
The empirical investigation of duration until first birth is based on event history
analysis, applying a piecewise constant regression model. Longitudinal micro-data
from the BHPS and the German SOEP are well-suited for our cross-national
comparison. Preliminary evidence shows a reduced first birth risk in the case of
German men with weak labour market integration and also in the case of British and
German women with extensive labour market integration.






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