Perceived income adequacy, the transition to parenthood and parity progression in the UK

Publication type

Conference Paper


Understanding Society Scientific Conference 2015, 21-23 July 2015, University of Essex, Colchester, UK


Publication date

July 21, 2015


Economic uncertainty can change patterns of family formation in complex
and competing ways. For example, while the costs of having children may
represent a barrier to childbearing if economic resources are
precarious, part-time work and unemployment may increase the time
available for childcare and provide opportunities for childbearing. This
paper presents a novel perspective on this complexity by investigating
how subjective perceptions of income adequacy (which does not
necessarily reflect absolute income) can provide unique insights into
the relationship between economic uncertainty and family formation. The
analyses use prospective data from Waves 1-4 of Understanding Society
(2009-13). We use discrete time-event history analysis to model the
transition to first, second and third birth for men and women aged 16-44
years. For objective indicators of economic uncertainty (economic
activity, household income) we generally observe an age-specific effect,
with uncertainty associated with increased fertility at younger ages,
and vice-versa at older ages. However for women of all ages, those
describing their financial situation as difficult are more likely to
become parents. For men, subjective financial status is significantly
associated with entry into fatherhood, whereas household income is not.
We conclude that perceptions of financial strain may capture aspects of
economic precarity not reflected in more objective measures. This may
include experiences of an insecure housing position or uncertainty over
whether welfare benefits will be restricted/ withdrawn. We discuss our
findings in the context of means-tested welfare assistance in the UK.





Latest findings, new research

Publications search

Search all research by subject and author


Researchers discuss their findings and what they mean for society


Background and context, methods and data, aims and outputs


Conferences, seminars and workshops

Survey methodology

Specialist research, practice and study

Taking the long view

ISER's annual report


Key research themes and areas of interest