Economic Uncertainty and Intentions to Remain Childless – Worries about the Economy or Individual- Level Economic Uncertainty?

Ann M. Berrington , University of Southampton
Bernice Kuang, University of Southampton
Brienna Perelli-Harris, University of Southampton

The UK traditionally had high teenage fertility rates with those most disadvantaged having an early entry into parenthood. However, fertility rates among those in their teens and early twenties plummeted after the Great Recession. It is unclear whether this reflects a new wave of postponement of childbearing to later ages or an increase in intended childlessness. Recent literature highlights economic uncertainty in reducing birth rates, especially among those with fewest resources. By studying fertility intentions and their association with individual-level economic uncertainty and macro-level worries about the economy we provide new insight as to whether economic pressures are associated with higher levels of intended childlessness. We contribute to the literature by contrasting the effects of individuals’ concerns for their financial situation (perceptions of future financial wellbeing and whether the individual believes that they are “better off” compared to their parents at a similar age), with the impact of worries about the macro-economic situation (economic recession/rising prices and unemployment rates). We find that: intentions to remain childless are much higher among current young adults, as compared with previous generations; around half of both childless men and women are either unsure in whether they will have a child, or say they will not; net of standard socio-economic controls, individual-level indicators of economic uncertainty are more strongly associated with intentions than worries about the economy. Theories of fertility behaviour should take account of the fact that individuals may only be influenced by macro changes to the extent to which they themselves are affected.

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 Presented in Session 26. Flash session Fertility Intentions