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Female education, labour markets and fertility outcomes: tempo and quantum of first births in Belgium between 1960 and 2000

19th January 2012 2pm, University of Southampton 58/4121

Karel Neels, University of Antwerp

A joint CPC and Social Statistics & Demography seminar.

After two decades of low fertility throughout the 1980s and the 1990s, the period TFR in Belgium increased from 1.56 children in 1995 to 1.85 in 2008. This recent recovery of the period TFR coincides with a slowing down in the pace of fertility postponement, but also with a marked decline in unemployment rates since the mid 1990s. In this paper we combine contextual data on economic growth and labour market conditions with individual-level maternity history data from the 2001 census to document the tempo-quantum interplay in Belgian fertility trends between 1960 and 2000. More specifically, we illustrate how rising female educational attainment and labour force participation in a context of limited economic and employment growth between the early 1970s and 1995 gave rise to excess labour supply and an unprecedented increase in unemployment rates. The results indicate that labour market conditions are more strongly correlated to variation in first birth hazards than more general economic indicators such as GDP-growth. Rising unemployment negatively affects first birth hazards at younger ages and this effect is found to be more articulated among higher educated women. The results also provide empirical support for recuperation of fertility after age 30 net of prevailing labour market conditions, particularly among women with tertiary education. Such recuperation effects account for the larger degree of stability in (lagged) cohort fertility indicators during the period considered. The results for Belgium suggest that access to stable employment in economically adverse times is an important condition to reduce period variation in fertility levels over and above policies that ease the work-family conflict. In an epilogue the Belgian results are put in perspective by considering female labour force participation, labour market conditions and fertility trends for a larger set of European countries.

Download Presentation File 1 (mp4 format)