Individual Autonomy and Timing of Childbearing: A Cross-European Comparison

Arieke J. Rijken, Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement
Francesco C. Billari, Università Bocconi

We investigate the association between individuals’ value orientations toward autonomy and their ideal age to have a first child in a cross-national perspective, assuming that the association between people´s ‘need for autonomy’ and their ideal age for first birth depends on the welfare context. In countries where the welfare states reduces the negative consequences of childbearing through generous support for parents, we expect this association to be weaker or non-existent; in such a context having children interferes less with pursuing goals such as hedonism and self-direction. We carry multilevel regressions using a sample of 8,180 individuals from 23 countries, stemming from Wave 3 of the European Social Survey (2006). We operationalize the welfare state by using social expenditures on families and children as percentage of GDP. Analyses confirm our hypothesis that the higher these expenditures, the weaker the association between people´s ‘need for autonomy’ and their age for first birth.

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Presented in Session 81: Fertility Timing: Europe and South America