Changing Partnership Dynamics and Childlessness in Finland

Robert Lynch , University of Turku
Marika Jalovaara, University of Turku

Our research aims to gain insight into how social and gender inequalities and partnership dynamics impact changing fertility dynamics in modern welfare states, such as Finland and the other Nordic countries. The Nordic countries are experiencing an unexpectedly rapid fertility decline. In Finland, for example, the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) has declined by 25% in the last 8 years much of which is due to an increase in childlessness. Recent findings suggest that these trends are are strongly tied to educational disparities (Jalovaara et al. 2018) and are likely to continue. We seek to understand the causes of this accelerating decline in Nordic fertility, and associated rise in childlessness, by addressing key social and gender inequities that affect partnership dynamics and are frequently neglected in fertility research. We suspect that increased childlessness among unpartnered individuals with lower education levels, and hence reduced opportunities for employment, will reflect socioeconomic disparities in opportunities to form families, and that these changes in partnership formation and stability will affect men and women similarly. Overall we expect to find that the traditional mechanisms by which socioeconomically advantaged women face obstacles to family formation have largely been consigned to history in Nordic countries, and that new disparities related to changing partnership dynamics have emerged. We discuss how changing opportunities of men and women, in addition to gender specific mate preferences, might affect these results and suggest the implications that changing partnership dynamics have for other countries that are beginning to experience many of these same transformations.

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