Explaining Dutch fertility rates in a comparative European perspective

A.J. Rijken, T.C.M. Knijn

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review


This article contributes to the search for explanations of the cross-national variation in fertility rates by studying the influence of social policy, economic and cultural factors on fertility in the former EU15, while giving special attention to one case: The Netherlands. This country lacks good social policy for supporting parents to combine work and care and nevertheless has a relatively high fertility rate. This article addresses the backgrounds of that phenomenon, using comparative macro level data from several sources, such as ‘the child benefit package’, the European Values Studies, OECD and Eurostat. We argue that bivariate relationships cannot explain cross-national variation in fertility rates. Therefore, we analyse configurations of factors, which shows among others that high availability of part-time jobs for women constitutes only part of the explanation for the Dutch fertility level. Good economic prospects and high male wages in combination with relatively low female human capital make that Dutch families can afford children at their own costs when men work full-time and women work part-time. Therefore, the low level of social policy that supports parents in the indirect or direct costs of children does not result in low fertility rates. Key words: fertility rates; family policy; economy; culture; cross-national comparison; The Netherlands
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)763-786
JournalEuropean Societies
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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