A Life Course Perspective of Personality Traits and Fertility

Marco Le Moglie , Università Bocconi
Letizia Mencarini, Bocconi University, Milan, Italy
Raffaella Piccarreta, Bocconi University

This study argues that the established link between personality traits and fertility can be fruitfully investigated adopting a life course perspective. Contrary to earlier studies, we show that personality traits matter for life course trajectories, of which fertility is one outcome together with several others – the most important ones being individuals’ union formation (and dissolution) and work careers. Using data from the German Socio Economic Panel we build sequence-types representations of the three careers, based on the events and activities undertaken between the ages of 20 and 40. We apply joint Sequence Analysis to identify clusters of individuals who experienced similar careers in the three domains, and then relate clusters to personality traits – controlling for a set of socio-demographic characteristics – via multinomial logistic regression. Since the number of cases with complete sequences is limited, we develop a new procedure to apply Sequence Analysis to trajectories of different lengths. This allows the analyst to incorporate individuals whose trajectories were observed only for a certain age span. Results show that personality traits shape significantly some life course trajectories more for men than for women, and with Consciousness emerging as the most important trait, bringing success in the job market and also in reproductive life.

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