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Gender-Specific Effects of Unemployment on Family Formation: A Cross-National Perspective

  • Christian Schmitt

This paper investigates the impact of unemployment on the propensity to start a family. Unemployment is accompanied by bad occupational prospects and impending economic deprivation, placing the well-being of a future family at risk. I analyze unemployment at the intersection of state-dependence and the reduced opportunity costs of parenthood, distinguishing between men and women across a set of welfare states. Using micro-data from the European Community Household Panel (ECHP), I apply event history methods to analyze longitudinal samples of first-birth transitions in France, Finland, Germany, and the UK (1994-2001). The results highlight spurious negative effects of unemployment on family formation among men, which can be attributed to the lack of breadwinner capabilities in the inability to financially support a family. Women, in contrast, show positive effects of unemployment on the propensity to have a first child in all countries except France. These effects prevail even after ontrolling for labour market and income-related factors. The findings are pronounced in Germany and the UK where work-family conflicts are the cause of high opportunity costs of motherhood, and the gender-specific division of labour is still highly traditional. Particularly among women with a moderate and low level of education, unemployment clearly increases the likelihood to have a first child.

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File URL: http://www.diw.de/documents/publikationen/73/diw_01.c.92707.de/dp841.pdf
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Paper provided by DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research in its series Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin with number 841.

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Length: 72 p.
Date of creation: 2008
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:diw:diwwpp:dp841
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  1. Michele Pellizzari, 2004. "Unemployment Duration and the Interactions Between Unemployment Insurance and Social Assistance," Working Papers 272, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
  2. Eileen Trzcinski & Elke Holst, 2003. "Hohe Lebenszufriedenheit teilzeitbeschäftigter Mütter," DIW Wochenbericht, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research, vol. 70(35), pages 539-545.
  3. Witte, James C. & Wagner, Gert G., 1995. "Declining Fertility in East Germany After Unification: A Demographic Response to Socioeconomic Change," EconStor Open Access Articles, ZBW - German National Library of Economics, pages 387-397.
  4. Virve Ollikainen, 2006. "Gender Differences in Transitions from Unemployment: Micro Evidence from Finland," LABOUR, CEIS, vol. 20(1), pages 159-198, 03.
  5. Angelika Tölke, 2003. "Insecurities in employment and occupational careers and their impact on the transition to fatherhood in Western Germany," MPIDR Working Papers WP-2003-016, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany.
  6. Angelika Tölke & Martin Diewald, 2003. "Insecurities in employment and occupational careers and their impact on the transition to fatherhood in Western Germany," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 9(3), pages 41-68, September.
  7. Katharina Wrohlich & Fabien Dell & Alexandre Baclet, 2005. "Steuerliche Familienförderung in Frankreich und Deutschland," DIW Wochenbericht, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research, vol. 72(33), pages 479-486.
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