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First Birth s A comparative study of the patterns of transition to parenthood in Europe. EPUNET Conference in Barcelona at 9th of May 2006 Katja Forssén & Veli-Matti Ritakallio University of Turku Finland. Background.

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first birth s a comparative study of the patterns of transition to parenthood in europe

First BirthsA comparative study of the patterns of transition to parenthood in Europe

EPUNET Conference in Barcelona at

9th of May 2006

Katja Forssén &

Veli-Matti Ritakallio

University of Turku

Finland

background
Background
  • Low and decreasing fertility is a major concern of population policy in all European countries
  • However, nowadays parents independently of social status wish to have more children than they actually have
  • Why so?
  • According to litterature low fertility is mostly accounted for troubles in gender equality, troubles in incompatibility of care and work/ care and education
  • First births have increasingly been postponed thereby shortening women's total childbearing years and increasing their risk of childlessness
  • As explanations for the increasing age at first births the extended educational attainment and increased female labour force participation has been presented
  • For this reason the policies to support female education and labour force participation has been recognized as key factor to reach more favourable fertility levels

Veli-Matti Ritakallio

other explanations
Other explanations
  • Besides gender equality another mechanism behind decreased fertility could be increased unsecurity of young adults
  • It is well documented that during the last decade(s) the relative position of young adults has worsened
  • Particularly changes in labour markets, increased precariousnes and attached economic uncertainity can affect decisions to have children

Veli-Matti Ritakallio

aim of the study
Aim of the study
  • We compare cross-nationally the socio-economic and demographic circumstances in which women have their first birth in 12 European countries
  • We focus on childless women at their best fertile age, 18-40 years
  • Among them, what explain the likelihood to have a first birth?
  • We analyze educational attainment and living conditions of women circa one year before they had their first births and compare the group to the childless women at same age category
  • Major interest is to test if the between country differences are in accordance with family policy models so that Scandinavian countries, Central European countries and Mediterranean countries tend to group together

Veli-Matti Ritakallio

hypothesis
Hypothesis
  • We assume that in the strong family policy countries the difference in the patterns of having a first birth is smaller between high educated and low educated mothers than in those countries with lower family benefits? (i.e. generous family policy package would make it easier to combine education, work and family life)
  • Our second hypothesis is that all over Europe economic uncertainty has impacts on childbearing decisions: unemployed women or women with insecure work contracts attempt to postpone their first births
  • In line with this, permanent job of mother should correlate positively with first births, poverty should correlate negatively with first births and guaranteed housing tenure (owning) as well as housing space (single-family house or detached or semi-detached or terraced house) should correlate positively with first births

Veli-Matti Ritakallio

process

The data

Process:
  • The data used here is European Community Household Panel Survey (ECHP)
  • At the 2001 ECHP-data there were altogether about 1400 mothers who have given a birth during the last year. Of them 626 gave their first birth.
  • This is not enough cases
  • To get enough first birth cases we pooled together 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2001 first birth cases
  • So we got altogether 3161 first birth cases
  • Our comparison group was 18-40 years old women with no children at 2001 (n=6262)

Veli-Matti Ritakallio

the design
The design
  • We compared the circumctances of the first birth mothers one year prior the birth with the childless 18-40 year old women (at 2001)
  • The studied circumstances were education, marriage, cohabitation, work, subsistence and housing

Veli-Matti Ritakallio

results
Results

Veli-Matti Ritakallio

figure 1 proportion of women having children at 18 25 years age and at 36 40 years age
Figure 1. Proportion of women having children at 18-25 years age and at 36-40 years age, %

Veli-Matti Ritakallio

slide10

Proportion of women having no children at 36-40 years age according to educational status (lowest=ISCED 0-2 vs. third level= ISCED 5-7), %.

Veli-Matti Ritakallio

proportion of cohabiting including married women with and without first births by two age groups
Proportion of cohabiting (including married) women with and without first births by two age groups, %

Veli-Matti Ritakallio

slide13
Proportion of income poor (60 % of national median) at 18-29 years and at 30-40 years, women without children vs. women with first birth, %

Veli-Matti Ritakallio

slide14
Proportion of owners of their accommodation at 18-29 years and at 30-40 years, women without children vs. women with first birth, %

Veli-Matti Ritakallio

conclusions 1
Conclusions (1)
  • The main division in European first birth patterns is connected to educational attainment. The division is closely associated with family policy models. In all the countries extended education tends to postpone first births, but in the Nordic countries this does not lead to lower overall birth rates of highly educated women, unlike in other countries.

Veli-Matti Ritakallio

conclusions 2
Conclusions (2)
  • The incompatibility of roles as mother and workers does not hold true in case of the Nordic countries. The Nordic long tradition of reconciling family and work seem to be effective and could be model for other countries to learn lessons.

Veli-Matti Ritakallio

conclusions 3
Conclusions (3)
  • The results reveal also that postponed first births are not automatically connected to low numbers of completed births. Again the Nordic countries deviate from other European countries. In the Nordic countries the proportion of mothers at age category 18-25 is very low, but the proportion of mothers and the average number of children at age category 36-40 is relatively high. However, the most fertile nation is Ireland.

Veli-Matti Ritakallio

conclusions 4
Conclusions (4)
  • First births and marriage are still strongly interrelated in European countries. In Southern European countries it still seems to be a norm to be married at the time of first conception. In the Nordic countries marriage increase the likelihood of first birth, but is not a norm. In all the countries almost 90 per cent or more live in cohabitation or in marriage at the time of their first conception.

Veli-Matti Ritakallio

conclusions 5
Conclusions (5)
  • Favourable living conditions generally increase the likelihood to transit to parenthood.
  • Universally a logical way to maintain fertility is to support young adults financially, and support them to obtain permanent jobs and to improve their housing conditions. Investments in family policies work simultaneously for family welfare and higher fertility.

Veli-Matti Ritakallio