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Social norms, family policies, and fertility trends: insights from a comparative study on the German-speaking region in Belgium

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  • Sebastian Klüsener

    (Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany)

  • Karel Neels
  • Michaela Kreyenfeld

    (Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany)

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    Abstract

    Several countries in Northern and Western Europe report cohort fertility rates of close to two children per woman, including Belgium, France, and Denmark. By contrast, most Central and Southern European countries have cohort fertility levels of only around 1.5-1.6 children. Germany is part of this second group. In order to explain these country differences in fertility levels, some scholars have stressed the role of the social policy context, while others have pointed to differences in social fertility norms. However, due to the interdependence of these two factors, it is cumbersome to isolate their impact on fertility trends. In our study we attempt to disentangle these influences by drawing on a quasi-natural experiment. In the aftermath of World War I, Germany was forced to cede the territory of Eupen-Malmedy to Belgium. The population in this area retained its German linguistic identity, but has been subject to Belgian social policies since the early 1920s. Our main research question is whether the fertility trends in this German-speaking region of Belgium follow the Belgian or the German pattern more closely. To answer this question, we use (micro)-census data to compare the fertility behavior in the German-speaking region in Belgium with data for western Germany and the Belgian Flemish- and French-speaking regions, controlling for individual-level characteristics. Our findings indicate that the overall fertility outcomes of the German-speaking region in Belgium resemble the Belgian pattern more than the German one. This provides support for the view that institutional factors play an important role for understanding the current fertility differences in Western Europe.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany in its series MPIDR Working Papers with number WP-2013-003.

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    Length: 37 pages
    Date of creation: Mar 2013
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:dem:wpaper:wp-2013-003

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    Web page: http://www.demogr.mpg.de/

    Related research

    Keywords: Belgium; Europe; Germany (Alte Bundesländer); family policies; fertility trends; social norms;

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    References

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    1. FFF1Michaela NNN1Kreyenfeld, 2004. "Fertility Decisions in the FRG and GDR: An Analysis with Data from the German Fertility and Family Survey," Demographic Research Special Collections, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 3(11), pages 275-318, April.
    2. Balleer, Almut & Gómez-Salvador, Ramón & Turunen, Jarkko, 2009. "Labour force participation in the euro area: a cohort based analysis," Working Paper Series 1049, European Central Bank.
    3. Anne Gauthier, 2007. "The impact of family policies on fertility in industrialized countries: a review of the literature," Population Research and Policy Review, Springer, vol. 26(3), pages 323-346, June.
    4. Esping-Andersen, Gosta, 1999. "Social Foundations of Postindustrial Economies," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198742005.
    5. Nan Marie Astone & Constance A. Nathanson & Robert Schoen & Young J. Kim, 1999. "Family Demography, Social Theory, and Investment in Social Capital," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 25(1), pages 1-31.
    6. Wim Van Lancker & Joris Ghysels, 2011. "Who reaps the benefits? The social distribution of public childcare in Sweden and Flanders," Working Papers 1106, Herman Deleeck Centre for Social Policy, University of Antwerp.
    7. Gerda Neyer & Gunnar Andersson, 2008. "Consequences of Family Policies on Childbearing Behavior: Effects or Artifacts?," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 34(4), pages 699-724.
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