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A model of voluntary childlessness

  • Paula Gobbi


Demographers and sociologists have studied why women remain childless for more than two decades; however, this specific choice of zero fertility has not interested economists. Permanent childlessness, in developed countries, can concern up to 30 % of the women in a cohort. Childlessness rates can be positively related to average fertility for some cohorts of women. This paper provides an explanation for this using an endogenous fertility model where individuals have different preferences for children. The main mechanism considered goes through the intergenerational evolution of preferences: I show that a reduction in the gender wage gap, or an increase in the fixed cost of becoming a parent, has a negative effect on both fertility and childlessness. The reduction of childlessness is due to a composition effect: small families shrink more than larger families, and this reduces childlessness. Copyright Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

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Article provided by Springer in its journal Journal of Population Economics.

Volume (Year): 26 (2013)
Issue (Month): 3 (July)
Pages: 963-982

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Handle: RePEc:spr:jopoec:v:26:y:2013:i:3:p:963-982
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  1. Thomas BAUDIN & David de la CROIX & Paula GOBBI, 2012. "DINKs, DEWKs & Co. Marriage, Fertility and Childlessness in the United States," Discussion Papers (IRES - Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales) 2012013, Université catholique de Louvain, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES).
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  6. Agnese Vitali & Francesco C. Billari & Alexia Prskawetz & Maria Rita Testa, 2009. "Preference Theory and Low Fertility: A Comparative Perspective," European Demographic Research Papers 0702, Vienna Institute of Demography (VID) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna.
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  12. O'Neill, June & Polachek, Solomon, 1993. "Why the Gender Gap in Wages Narrowed in the 1980s," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 11(1), pages 205-28, January.
  13. McElroy, Marjorie B & Horney, Mary Jean, 1981. "Nash-Bargained Household Decisions: Toward a Generalization of the Theory of Demand," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 22(2), pages 333-49, June.
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  15. Maria Letizia Tanturri & Letizia Mencarini, 2008. "Childless or Childfree? Paths to Voluntary Childlessness in Italy," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 34(1), pages 51-77.
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