Journal Article

Job insecurity and the timing of parenthood: a comparison between eastern and western Germany

Bernardi, L., Klärner, A., von der Lippe, H.
European Journal of Population, 24:3, 287–313 (2008)


This article contributes to the ongoing debate on the economic determinants of fertility behavior by addressing the role of job insecurity in couples’ intentions concerning parenthood and its timing. It starts from the hypothesis that cultural values moderate individuals’ reactions to job insecurity and the way it is related to family formation. With a systematic thematic content analysis of a set of semi-structured interviews with childless men and women around the age of 30 in eastern and western Germany, we are able to show that there are substantial differences in the consequences of job insecurity on intentions to have a first child. In western Germany, a relatively secure job career is expected to precede family formation, and this sequence of transitions is rather rigid, whereas in eastern Germany job security and family formation are thought of and practiced as parallel investments. We suggest that the lack of convergence in family formation patterns between eastern and western Germany after the unification of the country in 1990 is partially related to different attitudes toward job insecurity in the two contexts.
Keywords: Germany, family formation, labor force participation, qualitative methods, social change
The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.