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FRIHUMSAM-Fri hum og sam

Nordic Family Policy and Demographic Consequences

Awarded: NOK 8.6 mill.

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Project Period:

2012 - 2016


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To what extent do gender equal family policy increase fertility? Nordic family policies aim to promote a gender equal division of childcare and economic responsibility. It has been argued that generous family policy aiming at a gender equal division of childcare and economic responsibility will have a positive impact on childbearing. Focusing on Iceland, Norway and Sweden, one of the studies in this project explores how the use of parental leave is related to subsequent childbearing in the Nordic countries. The major arguments for why fathers participation in parental leave use would increase fertility are that it would ease womens work burden at home and thus improve the compatibility of childrearing and female employment, and that it may also stimulate fathers interest in children. Using data covering the total population in Iceland, Norway and Sweden, we consider cross-national variations in the relationship between fathers parental leave use and continued childbearing. Our results show that the risk of second births is higher when the father uses parental leave after the first birth, while the risk of a third birth is lower in this group in Norway and Sweden. We conclude that the ?two-child norm? is closely connected to the norm of fathers being engaged in child rearing, but we do not observe fully gender equality in parental leave uptake in the Nordic countries. In another study we ask whether different distributions of parental leave are related to continued childbearing and whether there has been a policy effect on fertility behavior from introducing the fathers quota in Norway and Sweden. In order to distinguish causality in effects from selection we use the natural experiment of the introduction of the fathers quotas. The results indicate that the reforms did not influence fertility in Norway but that couples with lower income had a temporary higher third birth risk in Sweden. This group was the one most affected by the reform. Focusing on another family policy a third paper assesses the relationship between cash transfers to families and subsequent childbearing. We take advantage of a cash-for-care (CFC) policy introduced in Norway in 1998, and compare the fertility behavior of eligible and ineligible mothers over a four year period. Contrary to theoretical expectations, the results show that CFC eligible mothers had a slower progression to both second and third births, and short term fertility is hence lower in this group. The patterns differ somewhat between different groups of mothers, and there seems to be a polarization between non-employed mothers and mothers without upper secondary education, on one hand, and employed mothers and mothers with upper secondary and higher education, on the other. We suggest that this pattern may be driven by an interaction between the CFC benefit and the Norwegian parental leave scheme.

The Nordic countries have a long tradition of promoting gender equality through family policy. The overall objective of this project is to advance understandings of the link between family policy and demographic behaviour (continued childbearing and famil y stability) and life-course earnings. The Nordic countries provide an excellent policy 'laboratory' with similar economic, social and cultural conditions, and broadly similar policies that provide generous benefits to families. The project compares Icela nd, Norway and Sweden. Using unique research designs and sophisticated methods, the project will assess the causal effect of family policy on individual behaviour. Using comparative data from administrative registers containing individual life-course hist ories, this project will generate innovative pictures of the consequences of Nordic family policy. The project are concentrated around three outcomes of interest: (i) continued childbearing, including parity-specific childbearing; (ii) family stability, i ncluding both divorce from marriage and dissolution from cohabitation; and (iii) life-course earnings, including long-term individual earnings, gender-differences in earnings within couples, and the gender pay gap at the aggregate level. First, we will de velop more comprehensive insight of the consequences of use of the parental leave policy on demographic behaviour and life-course earnings. Second, we consider the effects of specific changes, or so-called 'critical junctures' in family policy. Last, we e xpand the analyses of the effects of family policy by examining the importance of regional variations and possible effects of cultural, structural and economic contexts. The project will make an important contribution to the intersection between demograph ic and policy research. The outcomes of the project will be met with great interest among both researchers and policy-makers and will have policy implications across Europe.

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FRIHUMSAM-Fri hum og sam