Monday, November 27, 2006

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Living and breeding in sin in Europe

The European Union just released 2004 data on ferility rates for the EU 25 countries. Here's the interesting chart:

As you can see, there appears to be a positive correlation between higher birth rates and the percentage of births outside of wedlock.

Is this driving the results? Not necessarily. In a 2004 Journal of Population Economics paper, Alicia Adsera provided another explanation for the variation in birth rates: the structure of labor markets:

During the last two decades fertility rates have decreased and have become positively correlated with female participation rates across OECD countries. I use a panel of 23 OECD nations to study how different labor market arrangements shaped these trends. High unemployment and unstable contracts, common in Southern Europe, depress fertility, particularly of younger women. To increase lifetime income though early skill-acquisition and minimize unemployment risk, young women postpone (or abandon) childbearing. Further, both a large share of public employment, by providing employment stability, and generous maternity benefits linked to previous employment, such as those in Scandinavia, boost fertility of the 2529 and 3034 year old women.
To read a draft of the whole thing, click here.

posted by Dan on 11.27.06 at 03:48 PM


Out of wedlock doesn't have quite the meaning in the nordic countries, or even in England, that it does in the US. We are not talking about children raised in a one parent home, for the most part. Stable couples simply decline to get married.

That said, I do think that Adsera is correct. The Southern European countries (in happier times they were called Club Med) have abandoned one sort of social security (informal, religion, family, and neighborhood based) and not put into place practices which can replace that stability. Anyone who has spent some time around Spanish or Italian women (or men for that matter) know what a tragedy is occuring.

posted by: Mitchell Young on 11.27.06 at 03:48 PM [permalink]

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