Unemployment delays parenthood but not for all. Life stage and educational differences in the effects of employment uncertainty on first births

Anneli Miettinen & Marika Jalovaara

Abstract

This study investigates how employment uncertainty is associated with the transition to parenthood among men and women in times of increased instability in the labour market. We provide novel insights into how education and life stage might modify the link between insecure employment and fertility. We focus on a Nordic welfare state, Finland, and apply event history models to a rich register sample covering the years 1988–2009 (N=306,413). Our results suggest that a weaker labour market attachment tends to delay parenthood among both men and women, but the association is stronger for men. In most groups, the accumulation of unemployment periods is associated with a lower rate of entry into parenthood. However, among young, low-educated women, even long-term or recurring unemployment seems to promote first childbearing, and the generally negative association between unemployment and entry into parenthood is relatively weak among young, low-educated men. It appears that the effect of unemployment and employment insecurity is largely mediated by the low income of unemployed persons. Overall, the findings suggest that in a modern, gender-egalitarian welfare society, better employment prospects promote transition to parenthood in a very similar fashion among men and women, but the effects are strongly modified by education and life course stage.

Keywords: entry into parenthood, unemployment, employment uncertainty, socioeconomic resources, educational differences, men, women

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