Fertility and Well-Being

Research Area

Fertility and Well-Being in a Comparative Perspective

Keywords: Family Behavior

The strong cultural belief that children positively affect the well-being of parents — and especially women — is widespread throughout the world, and has reinforced norms regarding the desirability of having children. Although the taboo against childlessness has weakened in much of Europe and North America, levels of childlessness have remained low. Despite this popular belief, which is bolstered by academic work arguing that children (and marriage) contribute to individual well-being, a large body of literature in the U.S. has found a negative or an insignificant relationship between the happiness of parents and their fertility. However, little is known about the extent to which the association between fertility and well-being depends on parental characteristics such as age or socioeconomic status, how this relationship might vary across contexts, and how unobserved selection influences the observed associations. Taking a cross-national approach, we examine the relationship between the subjective well-being of parents and fertility, and test several mechanisms through which well-being and the number of children may be related.

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