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A bundle of joy or an expensive luxury : a comparative analysis of the economic environment for family formation in Western Europe

Listed author(s):
  • Paci, Pierella

This report provides a description of the diversity of current policies towards the family across the European Union and an account of the current"state of the art"on the effects of these policies on demographic and labor market behavior. There is an implicit assumption that the tax and benefit system (and any change to it) is somehow gender- and family-neutral and that the gender relations do not affect family formation. This paper's main aim is to fill this gap by exploring the extent to which the course of demographic trends within a country depends on State policies towards the family and its commitment to gender equality. The starting point of the analysis is the rather puzzling finding that in the 1990s amongst the European Union, the countries with the highest fertility rates are not those where the tradition of large families is longstanding, relations are stable, women's participation in the labor market is low, and the tax system is based on a"strong breadwinner"model. On the contrary, fertility is highest in Scandinavia where marriage is a rare and fragile institution and women have a relatively strong attachment to the labor market. Our cross-country comparison points to two crucial factors: the relatively low cost of childbearing and the more equal division of labor within the household.

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Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Social Protection and Labor Policy and Technical Notes with number 20118.

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Date of creation: 31 Jan 1999
Handle: RePEc:wbk:hdnspu:20118
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  1. Paul Bingley & Gauthier Lanot & Elizabeth Symons & Ian Walker, 1995. "Child Support Reform and the Labor Supply of Lone Mothers in the United Kingdom," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 30(2), pages 256-279.
  2. Junsen Zhang & Jason Quan & Peter van Meerbergen, 1994. "The Effect of Tax-Transfer Policies on Fertility in Canada, 1921-88," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 29(1), pages 181-201.
  3. Philip K. Robins & Nancy Brandon Tuma & K. E. Yaeger, 1980. "Effects of SIME/DIME on Changes in Employment Status," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 15(4), pages 545-573.
  4. Charles Michalopoulos & Philip K. Robins & Irwin Garfinkel, 1992. "A Structural Model of Labor Supply and Child Care Demand," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 27(1), pages 166-203.
  5. Siv Gustafsson & Frank Stafford, 1992. "Child Care Subsidies and Labor Supply in Sweden," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 27(1), pages 204-230.
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