Fertility-related norms across Europe: A multi-level analysis

A.C. Liefbroer, E.-M. Merz, M.R. Testa

Research output: Chapter in book/volumeChapterScientificpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


This chapter explores cross-national differences in fertility-related norms. In particular, we study whether such norms are weaker in countries that have progressed further along the path of the Second Demographic Transition (SDT) than in countries where the SDT has not yet ‘caught on’. Based on an analysis of ESS data, three key conclusions are drawn. First, country differences in the lower and upper age deadline for childbearing are small. At the same time, there is substantial cross-national variation in approval of voluntary childlessness, having a child while one is cohabiting unmarried, and women combining a full-time job and small children. Secondly, cross-national variation in approval of voluntary childlessness and in approval of having children in a consensual union are strongly related to how far a country is ‘advanced’ in the SDT process. The link between the SDT and deadlines for childbearing and approval of combining a full-time job and having small children is much weaker or non-existing. Thus, the SDT does not imply a general weakening of demographically relevant norms. Thirdly, across Europe, the highly educated, the religiously uncommitted, and those who value autonomy are much more likely to approve behaviours that are in line with the SDT than people with the opposite set of characteristics. At the same time, country-level differences in norms about voluntary childlessness and having a child outside marriage remain prominent, even if compositional differences in individual-level characteristics are taken into account. Thus, this study clearly shows the importance both of compositional and genuinely contextual effects.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationReproductive decision-making in a macro-micro environment
EditorsD. Philipov, A.C. Liefbroer, J.E. Klobas
Place of PublicationNew York
ISBN (Electronic)978-94-017-9401-5
ISBN (Print)978-94-017-9400-8
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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