Unemployment and Fertility Behavior in Times of Increased Economic Uncertainty

Axel Peter Kristensen , University of Oslo
Trude Lappegard, University of Oslo

Norway, previously considered one of Europe’ high fertility countries, has had a dramatic drop in fertility levels since 2009, and reached a historical bottom point with a total fertility rate of 1.56 children per woman in 2018. In order to understand this development, we assessed the relationship between economic uncertainty and fertility behavior among men and women. As a measure of economic uncertainty, we have used unemployment, distinguishing between individual and aggregated unemployment; Individual unemployment refers to whether an individual is unemployed or not, while aggregate unemployment refers to unemployment levels at a municipal level. The aim of this study was to examine the impact of these two types of unemployment on people’s fertility behavior and we asked whether individual or aggregated unemployment matters more for the likelihood of men and women having children. We also asked whether the relationship between unemployment and fertility has changed over time, especially in the recent period where the fertility level has decreased considerably. Using register data covering the Norwegian population in the period 1994-2014 our results indicate that the relationship between individual and aggregated unemployment and fertility behavior is not universal, and that it varies between men, women, childless and parents. A conclusion from our study is that over time both individual and aggregated unemployment seems to matter more for fertility decisions among the childless than among parents. This indicates that the relationship between unemployment and fertility behavior is changing in different ways for different groups.

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 Presented in Session P1. Poster Session Fertility, Family and the Life Course