MPIDR Working Paper

Beyond the continuum: a micro-level analysis of the gender equality-fertility nexus in three Nordic countries

Begall, K., Hiekel, N.
MPIDR Working Paper WP-2024-004, 35 pages.
Rostock, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (March 2024)
Open Access


The accelerating fertility decline in the most gender equal countries of the world seemingly contradict the central tenet of macro-level theories that predict high fertility in the presence of gender equality. We offer a comprehensive assessment of the individual behavior from which these trends aggregate. We link attitudes towards gender roles and fertility intentions in three Nordic countries. Using recent data (2020-2022) and a multidimensional instrument on gender equality attitudes from the Generations and Gender Programme for Denmark, Finland and Norway on n=15,547 women and men, we identify three attitude profiles of which one is situated beyond the “non-egalitarian-egalitarian continuum”. The profiles are clearly associated with fertility intentions for childless individuals. We further provide evidence for two theoretical mechanisms that intervene between gender equality attitudes and fertility intentions. Gender equal societies with a favorable opportunity structure for people to have the children they want, may still face challenges associated with low fertility: Fertility intentions are lowest among egalitarians, i.e., the largest population in these countries. While realizing a satisfying division of household labor with their partner enhances fertility intentions among egalitarians more than in the other groups, they do not necessarily prioritize parenthood as their main life objective.

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.