Better an Egg Today Than a Stork Tomorrow? Risk Aversion and Fertility Decisions in Italy

Bruno Arpino, Pompeu Fabra University
Daniela Bellani, Pompeu Fabra University

Fertility decisions, as all life actions, imply a balancing of anticipated costs and benefits whose expectations are formed under uncertainty. Fertility research has addressed the socio-economic, psycological, biological factors influencing fertility decisions. Yet, the role of risk aversion in influencing fertility decision has been overlooked. Risk aversion is a personal trait that has been found to influence different types of decisions, from risky health behaviours, such as alcohol consumption, to financial investments and schooling decisions. Very few studies have empirically analyzed the effect of risk aversion on demographic behaviours. In this paper, we use data from the Survey of Household Income and Wealth (SHIW) carried out by the Bank of Italy every two years. In particular, we make use of the lottery tolerance question included in the 1995 and 2000 waves to examine whether risk aversion has an impact in influencing fertility in Italy. Results indicate that the higher is the risk aversion, the higher is the probability of having a first and a second child during the observation period. The opposite is found for the transition to the third child. Our findings point to the importance of considering risk aversion (as well as other personality traits) in demographic research to gain a more complete understanding on demographic behaviours.

Presented in Session 103: Fertility in Times of Economic Uncertainty