The reason the richest women in the US are the ones having the most kids recently published an interesting article about the socioeconomic differential of fertility behavior in the US:

It’s one of the best-established relationships in economics: as women’s education and income levels go up, the number of children they have goes down.

But something happened to the American family over the last three decades: that downward slope became a U-turn. Women in families in the top half of the income spectrum are having more kids than their similar-earning counterparts did 20 years ago. Women from the very richest households are now having more children than those less-well off. Less than 28% of 40- to 45-year-old women in a household in any income bracket below $500,000 per year have three or more children, according to data from the 2011-2015 US Census, while 31.3% of families earning more than $500,000 do.


Money has always given wealthy people the option to pay for things that make it easier to have large families: childcare, a bigger house, help with chores at home. The ability to welcome as many children as ones likes into a family and afford them generous opportunities (while still pursuing one’s own career and interests) has to be one of wealth’s greatest perks. But a deeper look at the data shows that increasing abundance for families at the top is built on declining opportunities for those at the bottom.

More income and education used to lower fertility precisely because it raised the opportunity costs of having a child. Women lost a lot economically if they cut back on work to attend to an expanding family, so they had fewer kids and invested more in those they had.


But as wealthy people’s income rose faster—much faster—than poor people’s, it became that much easier for the wealthier to hire low-wage workers to help them care for their children, according to an analysis of the US trend at the UK’s Centre for Economic Policy Research. US families in the top 25% of the income distribution have spent drastically more on childcare since 1990, while those in the bottom quarter were generally priced out of the childcare market, opting instead to leave children with relatives and neighbors.


It’s part of a larger trend of wealthy families investing increasing amounts of time and money in their children’s education and development. It’s also given women at the upper end of the socioeconomic spectrum more choices. In 1990, a woman with an advanced degree was more than twice as likely to not have children as a less-educated woman, the authors found. Today well-educated women are just as likely to be mothers as anyone else.

“When inequality grows, people who have higher incomes can afford to hire people with lower incomes more easily,” said David Weiss, an economics lecturer at Tel Aviv University and a co-author of the paper. “As soon as you can do that, rich women can hire help to take care of their children and simultaneously have a career.”

Inequality has given women the freedom to “have it all”—but only for those who already have a lot.


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First birth postponement and fertility in Europe

The postponement of first childbirth has been occurring in most European countries for some decades now. In public and media discussion, delayed childbearing is often rather glibly associated with the fact that more women are going to university and getting jobs, and that they consequently want fewer children. Researchers find that for women born in 1965 and earlier, birth postponement, be it caused by education and career investments or by economic uncertainty, has led to higher childlessness and lower family size in Europe (Philipov and Kohler 2001; Kohler, Billari and Ortega 2002; Frejka and Sardon 2006; Sobotka 2003 and 2004).

Signs of a trend reversal?

However, our analysis suggests that the picture will be less clear for women who are currently at childbearing age. By taking into account younger cohorts and a larger set of European countries, and by differentiating between socio-economic determinants of birth postponement, we find evidence that under certain circumstances, birth postponement may facilitate rather than impede family formation.

Our analysis is based on survey data from the European Union Statistics on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC), which can be used to examine the interaction between demographic and socio-economic variables for a large number of European countries. We apply a ‘synthetic cohort approach’ and compile data specifically to reduce endogeneity (education and labour market status are observed before the potential conception of a first child) and to eliminate truncation (semi-retrospective approach to avoid observing women who have not yet completed education) and other possible structural effects (see d’Albis, Greulich and Ponthière, 2017, for more details on the methodology).

Education and its impact on the timing and extent of first childbirth


Figure 1 shows the extent of the “first childbirth” phenomenon by age for various educational levels (averages for 28 European countries), or, in simpler words, the percentage of women who have had at least one child, by age and education. This percentage increases with age. Figure 1 shows that by age 45, the oldest age considered, 71.6% of women with low education have had a first birth, 70.8% of those with medium education, and 81.0% of those with high education. Figure 1 also illustrates that higher education is associated with birth postponement. Low-educated women are more likely to have a child while they are young than women with medium and high education. The percentage with a “first childbirth” is higher up to age 32. By contrast, women with high education tend to have their first child later than other women, as seen in their lower percentage up to age 32. However, Figure 1 shows that they are more likely to become mothers at some point.

It is tempting to interpret the findings of our synthetic cohort as showing highly educated women ‘catching up’ with the fertility of less educated women. However, the figure must not be seen in this way, because our calculations are based on a cross-sectional sample including thirty cohorts, rather than a single cohort monitored over time. The figure shows, nevertheless, a picture of the current fertility behaviour of those cohorts who are now at childbearing age.

Regional differences

We find the same stylized fact in all subgroups of countries: in all regions of Europe, more educated women wait longer before having their first child than less educated women; but ultimately, highly educated women are more likely to become mothers by the end of their childbearing years. However, the regions differ in terms of the size of the gap between women of different education levels. In the Nordic countries, the gap between high- and low-educated women is substantial. In Central and Eastern Europe, the gap is negligible and the percentage of women with a first birth is relatively low in all education groups. Consequently, educational level is a much better predictor of childlessness at age 45 in the Nordic countries than in other European regions. The fact that highly educated women are most likely to become mothers in the Nordic countries might be linked to the fact that public institutions in this region are particularly supportive of maternal employment. Of course, other labour market-related issues such as job stability and income security may also play a part here.

When analysing the timing and extent of first childbirth by age and activity status, we find that, for all ages, the extent is higher for women who work than for those who do not. The gap between working and non-working women remains wide until the end of the childbearing years. It seems that unsuccessful integration into the labour market not only postpones first childbirth, but sometimes also prevents it.


Our analysis contributes to the discussion on the connection between birth postponement and fertility levels for younger cohorts in European countries. Our results suggest that public policies that encourage educational investment, promote secure employment and help parents to combine work and family life all have the potential to increase fertility despite birth postponement.

Of course, our conclusion is only partial: to get a complete picture one would need to analyse and forecast the extent of all birth orders by education, activity status and institutional context. But the signs of a reversal of past trends are visible: postponement need not be associated with lower fertility among future cohorts in Europe.



d’Albis H., Greulich A., Ponthière G. (2017): “Education, labour, and the demographic consequences of births postponement in Europe.” Demographic Research, Vol. 36, Art. 23, pages 691-728.

Frejka T., Sardon J.-P. (2006): “First birth trends in developed countries: Persisting parenthood postponement.” Demographic Research, Vol. 15, Art. 6, pages 147-180.

Kohler H.-P., Billari F. C., Ortega J.A. (2002): “The emergence of lowest-low fertility in Europe during the 1990s.” Population and Development Review 28(4), 641–681.

Philipov D., Kohler H.-P. (2001): “Tempo effects in the fertility decline in Eastern Europe: Evidence from Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Russia.” European Journal of Population 17(1): 37-60.

Sobotka, T. (2003): “Tempo-quantum and period-cohort interplay in fertility changes in Europe. Evidence from the Czech Republic, Italy, the Netherlands and Sweden.” Demographic Research 8(6): 151-213.

Sobotka, T. (2004): “Is lowest-low fertility in Europe explained by the postponement of childbearing?” Population and Development Review 30, p. 195‑220.

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Pour un congé parental court, bien rémunéré et partagé entre les parents

Le congé parental a connu d’importantes modifications au nom de l’égalité hommes-femmes et pour inciter les pères à y avoir recours. Pourtant, la réforme peine à se montrer efficace. Pour aller plus loin, la France doit raccourcir la durée du congé parental tout en proposant une substitution du salaire net à chaque parent.

Depuis le 1er janvier 2015, le Complément de libre choix d’activité (CLCA) a laissé place à la Prestation partagée d’éducation de l’enfant (PreParE). Pour le premier enfant, le versement de la PreParE passe de six mois à un an si les deux parents prennent un congé. À partir du deuxième enfant, la prestation peut être versée jusqu’aux 3 ans de l’enfant comme auparavant, mais chaque parent ne peut prendre que 24 mois au maximum. C’est donc au second parent de prendre les 12 mois restants si le couple veut profiter de la durée maximale.

Par cette mesure, le gouvernement voulait permettre aux femmes de retourner plus rapidement sur le marché du travail après la naissance (ou l’adoption) de leur enfant, et inciter davantage les pères à s’arrêter de travailler pour élever leur enfant. C’est plutôt raté, car le dispositif reste très majoritairement utilisé par les femmes. Fin 2015, les hommes représentaient à peine plus de 5% des bénéficiaires du congé parental, contre 3,3% en 2014, selon la Cnaf. C’est toujours principalement les femmes qui s’occupent des tout jeunes enfants, au détriment de leur carrière. Par conséquent, les femmes sont actuellement toujours moins bien payées que les hommes (28% de moins dans le privé), ce qui nuit à leur indépendance économique et leur prévoyance vieillesse. Les pères passent, par ailleurs, toujours beaucoup moins de temps avec leurs enfants qu’ils le souhaitent.

L’échec de cette réforme est principalement lié au fait que la PreParE est toujours d’un montant forfaitaire (moins de 400 euros par mois en cas de cessation totale d’activité). Faute d’allocation suffisante, les couples ne peuvent pas se permettre de laisser celui qui gagne le plus s’arrêter.

La France est donc enferrée dans un cercle vicieux: l’inégalité salariale incite les femmes (qui ont un plus petit salaire) à interrompre leur activité professionnelle pour une durée toujours très longue, ce qui creuse encore un peu plus l’inégalité salariale entre hommes et femmes.

Il est donc l’heure d’oser une mesure beaucoup plus progressiste en France. Mais comment faire? Comme souvent en ce qui concerne la politique sociale et l’égalité homme/femme, un regard vers la Suède s’avère utile. Celle-ci propose un congé parental de 13 mois rémunéré à 80% du salaire net (plafonné à 4.000 euros par mois) pour chaque enfant. Les parents profitent de la totalité des 13 mois uniquement si le deuxième parent prend lui-même au moins deux mois de congé.

La Suède est le premier pays européen à avoir instauré ce type de congé parental, en 1974. Aujourd’hui, 90% des pères suédois profitent de ce positif. L’Allemagne a adopté ce modèle en 2007 en proposant 67% du salaire net, plafonné à 1.800 euros par mois.  Si les pères demandent au moins deux mois d’arrêt, le congé parental peut être porté à quatorze mois au total au lieu de douze. Environ un quart des pères allemands profitent actuellement de ce dispositif. L’effet de la reforme allemande reste mitigé, principalement en raison du sous-développement des services de garde pour les tout jeunes enfants. Cette situation rend donc difficile toute évolution dans les rôles traditionnels de genre en Allemagne.

La France n’a pas ce handicap. Les modes de garde y sont relativement bien développés comparé à ses voisins européens, ce qui faciliterait un partage plus égal des responsabilités entre parents. Pour donner un coup de pouce significatif, la France doit raccourcir la durée du congé parental tout en remplaçant le transfert forfaitaire par une indemnité versée à titre compensatoire. L’idée est de proposer une substitution du salaire net d’environ 80% (calculée sur la base des deux années antérieures et plafonnées pour les très hauts salaires). Pour favoriser de façon résolue un partage entre les parents, chaque parent aurait le droit d’en profiter pour une période de maximum six mois après le congé maternité/paternité.

Oui, cette mesure est anti-redistributive. Mais elle favorise une insertion professionnelle avant et peu après la naissance d’un enfant pour les deux sexes. Encourager et faciliter l’accès à un emploi stable reste la meilleure façon de lutter contre les inégalités –de tout genre. La France doit se rattraper également dans ce domaine. Enfin, il est évident que la politique doit encourager un changement de paradigme dans le monde des entreprises afin de permettre aux parents de mieux se partager les responsabilités économiques et éducatives. Gardons en tête qu’en Suède, une journée de travail standard se termine vers 16h30 en moyenne pour tout salarié.

Et oui, cette mesure coûtera cher. Mais il est temps d’investir. Et n’oublions pas que l’activité professionnelle des femmes, qui augmentera avec cette mesure, générera des recettes fiscales supplémentaires. Si cela ne semble pas suffisant, faisons encore une fois comme la Suède: l’installation d’une imposition individuelle (donc la suppression du quotient conjugal/familial) qui libérerait des moyens énormes pouvant être réinvestis pour reformer le congé parental, pour renforcer le système de mode de garde et d’éducation et pour lancer d’autres politiques sociales qui permettent de réduire les inégalités de revenu.

Angela Greulich

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Angela Greulich

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Lessons from Europe? What Japan Can Learn from European Family Policies.

Most developed countries with relatively high fertility rates around replacement level (2.1 children per women), like France or the Nordic countries, have a comprehensive mix of different family policy instruments. The reason why these countries have been experiencing a re-increase in fertility rates over the last decade cannot be attributed to one single family policy measure such as cash benefits, but the whole policy setting and its interactions with labor market participation and gender equality has to be considered.


It is true that countries like France or Sweden have relatively generous child allowances (lump sum cash transfers), but other instruments like child care subsidies or parental leave pay are even more generous and even more important. In general, we can observe that countries which privilege cash transfers against child care or parental leave, such as Germany, Italy  and many Eastern European countries, have relatively low fertility rates (around 1.4 children per women). Giving pure financial incentives to parents, in the form of monthly cash transfers or generous birth grants, seems not to be a fruitful way to increase fertility.

What seems to work more is offering parents the possibility to combine work and family life. In high fertility countries such as France and Sweden, most women, even the highly qualified, work and have children at the same time. In low fertility countries such as Germany, Austria or Italy, women either work or have children. If they have children, many women work maximum part time. It is rare that women with young children work full time in these countries. The dichotomous choice between having children and pursuing a career results in the fact that many high qualified women postpone their first childbirth (they often have their first child after the age of 35 and then do not have a child of higher birth order) or do not have children at all. This reduces total fertility rates.

It seems that like in Germany, Japanese women have to decide between work and family life. Once they want to start a family, they are supposed to stop their working activities. Especially highly educated women therefore often opt for staying childless. Those families with one child often cannot afford having a second child, as the man is the only earner in the family and the women stays at home. Dual earner couples are observed to have the highest likelihood of enlarging a family from one to two or more children in European countries with fertility levels around or above replacement level (France, Nordic countries).

How can family policies increase the work-life balance? France and Sweden for example invests a lot in an area-wide child care system. The child care coverage rate for the youngest children below the age of three is above 40 percent in both countries, whereas in Germany and Austria the rate is only around 15 percent. In France, public child care, “crèches” (nurseries), nannies, and child miners, are generously subsidized and children go to an all-day school from the age of three on.  In Sweden, parental leave provides parents a 80 percent net wage substitution during a maximum period of 12 months after childbirth. The maximum period can only be reached if both parents take 6 months each. The maximum individual leave period is 6 month. This encourages parents (the woman, but also the man!) to work before childbirth, to return to the labor market shortly after childbirth and to share tasks among parents.

Together with cash transfers for parents with low income, child care policies and parental leave policies can contribute to a comprehensive policy mix facilitating parents’ work-life balance. Over and above, family policies are all the more efficient if they go hand in hand with labor market and gender equality policies encouraging women’s careers (mentoring programs, quotas, decent working conditions after return of maternity or parental leave etc.).

By encouraging parental work-life balance, family policies can not only succeed in fulfilling pro-natalist objectives. By increasing female employment, they can also reduce income poverty, increase gender equality, create tax income, and by all these means support child development and prevent population aging.

By Angela Greulich

The article has been published by on 06/01/2017

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Two or three children? Turkish fertility at a crossroads.

In Turkey, female employment and education are still relatively low, while fertility levels are high compared to other European countries. However, Turkey stands on the brink of an important social transition. Increasing female education and employment are being accompanied by important decreases in fertility. By mobilizing census and survey data (SILC), we find that parents’ decision for or against a third child is of particular importance for fertility levels in Turkey. Graduate women participating in the formal labor market are most likely to decide against larger family size in comparison to inactive or unemployed women. Their contribution to household income seems to be important and cannot be given up, especially if the couple already has two children. Policies enabling women to combine work and family life, which have been proven effective in other European countries, emerge therefore as useful to avoid fertility declining below replacement levels in Turkey.

Article written by Angela Greulich, Aruélien Dasre and Ceren Inan

Two or Three Children? Turkish Fertility at a Crossroads”  Population and Development Review, 42(3): 537-559, September 2016.


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Rebond de la fécondité » dans les pays développés, automatisme ou apanage de quelques rares privilégiés ?

L’inversion de la tendance, appelée « rebond de la fécondité », qui accompagne le processus de développement économique dans certains pays développés, mais pas dans tous, montre que l’incidence du développement économique sur la fécondité est ambiguë. Le caractère positif ou négatif de cette incidence dépend de nombreux facteurs, en plus de la dimension économique. Dans la mesure où la fécondité affecte la croissance démographique et la pyramide des âges, ses évolutions dans un futur immédiat ont des conséquences très importantes sur le développement économique, la croissance de la productivité et certains aspects de la protection sociale. Par conséquent, le fait de savoir si de nouveaux progrès économiques sont susceptibles de provoquer un rebond de la fécondité dans les pays très développés revêt un intérêt politique, social et économique majeur.

Cet article apporte un éclairage sur les moteurs potentiels de la fécondité dans les pays très développés. En dressant un état de l’art de la littérature empirique, il répond à la question : le phénomène du « rebond de la fécondité » est-il susceptible, et dans quelles conditions, de devenir un fait stylisé dans les pays développés dans un avenir proche ?

Plan de l’article:

  1. Le phénomène du rebond de la fécondité
  2. Dans quelle mesure les décisions en matière de fécondité sont-elles déterminées par le contexte macroéconomique des pays ?
  3. Le développement économique : une condition nécessaire, mais pas suffisante au rebond de la fécondité
  4. L’emploi des femmes fait toute la différence
  5. Importance de la réconciliation entre vie professionnelle et vie familiale
  6. Les femmes ayant suivi des études et ayant un emploi ont-elles plus d’enfants ?
  7. Panorama : le rebond de la fécondité en période de crise économique

English Version:

The Fertility “Rebound” in Developed Countries – Automatism or Privilege of a “Happy Few”?

The reversal of the fertility trend, also called “fertility-rebound”, that comes along with the process of economic development in some but not in all developed countries shows that the impact of economic development on fertility is ambiguous. Whether this impact is positive or negative depends on many factors, over and above the economic dimension. As fertility affects population growth and the age structure of the population, changes in fertility in the immediate future have far-reaching consequences on economic development, productivity growth and aspects of welfare systems. It is therefore of major political, social and economic interest to know whether further economic advancement is likely to provoke a rebound of fertility in highly developed countries.
This article sheds light on the potential drivers of fertility in highly developed countries. By establishing a state of the art of the empirical literature on this subject, the article answers the question if and under what circumstances the phenomenon of a “fertility rebound” is likely to become a stylized fact in developed countries in the near future.

Source de l’article:


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Aging with Growth: How to tackle low fertility in European Countries

With regard to fertility, reducing the obstacles to people having children has become an issue of growing importance in the policy agenda of many Central European and Baltic countries. Persistently falling fertility has pressed policymakers into action in many countries, with the aim of reducing barriers to family formation.

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Indeed, the evidence is that people in general want two children and yet are having on average smaller families that they would like. The decline in fertility in Central Europe and the Baltics is mostly due to women not having a second child. Childlessness is unusual. Only 12 percent of women on average have no children in Central Europe and the Baltics, compared to 22 percent in Italy or 24 percent in Germany. However, while in the higher fertility countries like Denmark, Ireland, or Sweden, about 80 percent of women having one child decide in favor of a second child, in some Central Europe and the Baltics under 60 percent of women make this choice.

Improving  families’  economic  circumstances is important for increasing fertility in Central European and the Baltic countries. Affordability or economic stability seems to dominate the decision to have a second child in Central European and Baltic countries. Several studies suggest that job instability along with income uncertainty are important reasons. Explaining low fertility, especially in Central European countries such as Poland, Hungary or the Czech Republic (Goldstein et al. 2009, 2013; Mishtal 2009).

For less rich EU countries then the general economic circumstances facing families would appear critical in driving the decision for whether or not to have more children. For the highest income countries, there is evidence that “successful”  labor market integration after  the  birth  of  a  first  child  seems  to  facilitate  women’s decision to have a second child. Recent research points to a re-increase in fertility in several highly developed countries (Myrskilä  et  al. 2009,  Greulich-Luci and Thévenon, 2014). For these countries, the pattern between total fertility rates and economic development is actually inverse J-shaped. This means that the correlation between economic development, as measured by GDP per capita, and fertility turns from negative to positive from a certain relatively high level of development on.

The re-increase in fertility that comes hand in hand with economic development is particularly striking in countries such as France and the United States. In other countries like Germany and Austria, this rebound is less developed, and fertility has stagnated – despite high levels of economic development – at relatively low levels below replacement.

Economic development is thus not sufficient to explain why the fertility rebound occurs in some developed countries, but not in others. Empirical evidence points to female employment as the main explanatory variable behind the re-increase in fertility (Luci-Greulich  and  Thévenon  2014).

In other words, the fertility rebound happens only in those countries in which female employment rates are relatively high. A recent analysis for the EU economies, finds that women being in stable employment after having a first child significantly increases the odds of having a second child (Luci-Greulich,  Thévenon  and  Guergoat-Larivière 2013). These results are stronger for high fertility countries, such as Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden. However, they do not hold in all Central European and Baltic countries, such as Bulgaria,Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, the Slovak Republic, and Slovenia, which have high full-time employment rates, low fertility rates, and a low average probability of a second child. In these countries, the evidence suggests that even for those in employment the costs of having a further child may be too high to bear.

Child care coverage for young children (aged 0 to 2) appears to be the important instrument  for  women’s  decision  to  have  a  second  child  in  comparison  to  other  family policies  such  as maternity and parental leave or cash benefits. Cross-country studies have investigated the impact on fertility rates of money transfers, leave and childcare policies, and expenditures for families. Each instrument of the family policy package (paid leave, childcare services and financial transfers) is found to have a positive influence on average, suggesting that the combination of these forms of support for working  parents  during  their  children’s  early  years  is  likely  to  facilitate  their  decision  to  have children. These results are consistent with the findings of studies focusing on country- specific situations and/or analyzing more precisely the impact of a single measure or a policy reform. Policy levers are not found to have the same weight, however: the provision of childcare services for children under age three have a larger potential influence on fertility (Luci-Greulich  and  Thévenon, 2014).

However, from the results of this analysis and those of country-specific studies, country context is clearly important. For countries where unstable or low incomes prevent families from growing, progressive tax and benefit policies may play an important role in supporting families to expand.

Source: What’s next in aging Europe? Washington, DC: World Bank. World Bank (2015)

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