"The Proper Age for Parenthood" and Second Birth Rates in Europe

Jan Van Bavel, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
Natalie Nitsche, Yale University

Fertility differences in Europe are largely due to disparities in parity progression after the first child. First birth postponement is recuperated to a larger extent in countries with relatively high fertility, less so in lowest-low fertility countries. Explanations for this differential have been based either in biology (fecundity) or socio-economic factors. We, however, argue that cultural factors need to be taken into account to understand this phenomenon and investigate the relationship between age norms and the second birth rate in 23 European countries. Using the third round of the European Social Survey and multi-level event history models, we analyze if ideas about the ‘proper’ age for parenthood interact with actual ages at first birth in influencing second birth transitions. Indeed, our findings show that in regions with older ideal ages for parenthood the second birth rate is depressed for women with young ages at first birth and vice versa.

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Presented in Session 142: Comparative Perspectives on Fertility and Sexual Behavior