Stable employment – more babies? Life stage and educational differences in the effects of labour market attachment on first birth among Finnish men and women

Anneli Miettinen & Marika Jalovaara

Abstract

This study investigates how employment and individual economic resources affect the transition into parenthood in times of increasing uncertainty regarding overall economic development. We focus on a Nordic welfare state, Finland, and apply event history models on a rich register sample that includes men and women and covers years 1988–2009 (N=306,413). Our results suggest that a less secure labour market attachment tends to delay first childbearing among both men and women, but the association is stronger for men than for women. The negative effect of a weak labour market position is also more pronounced among highly educated and older (30+ years) persons. However, among young women with the lowest level of education, unemployment – even long term or recurring – seems to promote first childbearing. The generally negative effect of unemployment on entering parenthood is also much weaker among young men with a low level of education. In younger age groups, much of the association between unemployment or less secure employment and fertility can be attributed to the poor financial situation of the unemployed. Overall, we find that in a modern welfare society that strives for gender equality, better employment prospects appear to promote transition to parenthood in a very similar fashion among men and women, and in general, longer absences from work are equally detrimental for men’s and women’s first childbearing. Moreover, our study also contributes to the research on the employment and fertility nexus by exploring the role of union formation and dissolution as a mediator between employment, economic resources and fertility.

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