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Family policies, norms about gender roles and fertility decisions in France and Germany


  • Anne Salles
  • Clémentine Rossier
  • Sara Brachet


Cross-country comparisons show that family policies supporting the work-family combination are related to higher fertility in industrialised countries. We argue that within each country, there is a dominant norm about the care of small children, linked to the shape of family policy, that influences individuals' fertility decisions whatever their gender roles attitudes and practices. We compare western Germany and France, which have different family policy and child care contexts, and also different fertility levels, but exhibit similar attitudes and practices towards gender roles as measured in surveys. Using qualitative data (62 interviews), we show that in each national sample, most individuals manage to agree with the national norm about child care, on top of their varying attitudes towards, and practices of, gender roles. These national norms about child care shape fertility decisions, independently of the provision of child care. In western Germany, where mothers are seen as the best child care providers, women who want or need to work prefer to forgo having children rather than using other possible sources of child care. In France, where child care is seen as best when shared, individuals find child care solutions allowing women to work, even in cases where no institutional care is available.

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  • Anne Salles & Clémentine Rossier & Sara Brachet, 2011. "Family policies, norms about gender roles and fertility decisions in France and Germany," Vienna Yearbook of Population Research, Vienna Institute of Demography (VID) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna, vol. 9(1), pages 259-282.
  • Handle: RePEc:vid:yearbk:v:9:y:2011:i:1:p:259-282

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. De Laat, Joost & Sevilla-Sanz, Almudena, 2006. "Working women, men's home time and lowest-low fertility," ISER Working Paper Series 2006-23, Institute for Social and Economic Research.
    2. Peter McDonald, 2000. "Gender Equity in Theories of Fertility Transition," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 26(3), pages 427-439.
    3. Jean-Marie Le Goff, 2002. "Cohabiting unions in France and West Germany: transitions to first birth and first marriage," MPIDR Working Papers WP-2002-025, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany.
    4. Henriette Engelhardt & Alexia Prskawetz, 2002. "On the changing correlation between fertility and female employment over space and time," MPIDR Working Papers WP-2002-052, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany.
    5. repec:cai:poeine:pope_601_0099 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Anne Salles & Clémentine Rossier & Sara Brachet, 2010. "Understanding the long term effects of family policies on fertility: The diffusion of different family models in France and Germany," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 22(34), pages 1057-1096, June.
    7. Almudena Sevilla-Sanz, 2010. "Household division of labor and cross-country differences in household formation rates," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 23(1), pages 225-249, January.
    8. Alícia Adserà, 2004. "Changing fertility rates in developed countries. The impact of labor market institutions," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 17(1), pages 17-43, February.
    9. Henriette Engelhardt & Tomas Kögel & Alexia Prskawetz, 2001. "Fertility and women´s employment reconsidered: A macro-level time-series analysis for developed countries, 1960-2000," MPIDR Working Papers WP-2001-021, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany.
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    Cited by:

    1. Anja Vatterrott, 2015. "Socialisation or Institutional Context: What Determines the First and Second Birth Behaviour of East–West German Migrants?," European Journal of Population, Springer;European Association for Population Studies, vol. 31(4), pages 383-415, October.

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