Having Children in Different Territorial Contexts: The Role of Social Capital

Isabella Santini, Sapienza University of Rome
Alessandra De Rose, Sapienza University of Rome
Giuseppina Guagnano, Sapienza University of Rome

After second demographic transition, substantial regional variation in fertility levels has continued to exist within contemporary European low-fertility societies. A large part of this variability is explainable in terms of individual preferences, socio-economic and cultural conditions and in terms of the direct or indirect policy measures aimed at sustaining the families and their childbearing. Little is still known, instead, about the mechanisms that link the characteristics of the proximate context where the family lives as far as the social climate, the amount and quality of the territorial services and the interpersonal relationships to childbearing decisions. Namely, a number of studies exist on the role of the social capital and neighborhood context on fertility, but they are limited in definitions – only interpersonal supports or local socio-economic contexts have been separately considered - and in territorial perspective.

In this paper, we evaluate the relationship between social capital and reproductive behavior in the European countries. We build a composite indicator which combines the three main features of social capital – social behaviors, social relationship and territorial context – and analyze its impact on the logit of having one (more) child among women in reproductive age and currently in union. We then discuss the results in terms of different Welfare State regimes.

Data come from the 2014 EU-SILC Survey. Our selected sample consists of more than 15,000 women.


Having children in different territorial contexts: the role of the social capital

Aims

The main objective of the paper is to explore the role of social capital in explaining reproductive behaviors and differences among European countries.

A large part of fertility variability is explainable in terms of individual preferences, socio-economic and cultural conditions and in terms of the direct or indirect policy measures aimed at sustaining the families and their childbearing. Little is still known, instead, about the mechanisms that link the characteristics of the proximate context where the family lives as far as the social climate, the amount and quality of the territorial services and the interpersonal relationships to childbearing decisions. Namely, a number of studies exist on the role of the social capital and neighborhood context on fertility, but they are limited in definitions – only interpersonal supports or local socio-economic contexts have been separately considered - and in territorial perspective.

With this study we aim to fill a gap: first of all, we adopt a more comprehensive definition of social capital; then, we build proper indicator of the social capital as a unique concept as well as specific indicators of each components; finally, we measure the effects of the social capital on probability of having a (further) child in all the 27 EU countries.

Definition of Social Capital

According to the most widely accepted definition suggested by the World Bank Social Capital Initiative Program research group, social capital includes the institutions, the relationships, the attitudes and values that govern interactions among people and contribute to economic and social development (Grootaert and van Bastelaer, 2002). This definition implies that living in a society characterized by model and cooperative behaviour, and where trust replaces suspicion and fear, can have a systematic positive effect on individuals as their socioeconomic vulnerability is reduced as well as the resources they need to deal with risk and to avert major losses (Putnam et al.,1993; Helliwell, 2001). Moreover, networks of interpersonal relationships characterized by mutual trust represent an important resource especially for those who are often described as deficient along other vectors such as human and financial capital (Grootaert and van Bastelaer, 2001; Woolcock, 2002), as it occurs during an economic crisis to young people – whether in work or job seekers – who are generally the weakest group in the labour market. Also the environment is considered among the determinants of social capital formation (Loopmans, 2001; Glaeser et al., 2002). It includes both the housing characteristics and the quality of the territory of residence in terms of grime, air and water pollution.

Data and methods

Data come from the 2014 EU-SILC Survey. This is the unique data source which includes a number of variables collected at individual, household and contextual levels to be used in order to build our social capital indicators. We first build three composite indicators, one for each single component:

  1. social behaviour, to measure the degree of civic morality (SB);
  2. social relationships, to measure the degree of informal socializing (SR);
  3. territorial and environmental characteristics to measure the quality of housing (TC_1) and that of the environment in terms of lack of pollution and grime (TC_2) which are both significant determinants of the social capital formation.

Finally, we build an overall indicator which combines the three main features of social capital – social behaviors, social relationship and territorial context.

We then analyze its impact on the logit of having one (more) child among women in reproductive age and currently in union. Our selected sample consists of around 16,000 women.

We consider three categories of women:

0: with no children

1: with only one child (or twins) less than 1 year old (‘kid’ from now on)

2: with 2 or more children and at least one ‘kid’

Our dependent variable takes on three ordered categories: 0, 1, 2.

We applied an ordered response model, that is a regression model for an ordinal response variable, based on the cumulative probabilities of the response variable. In the ordered logit, the log-odds (logit) of each cumulative probability is assumed to be a linear function of the covariates, with regression coefficients constant across response categories.

Results

Controlling for a plenty of variables, referring to respondent’s demographic and socio-economic characteristics (age, marital status, educational level, working status, deprivation index, income, ability to make ends need, health status) we found:

  1. a general positive effect of SC on probability of having a first and second child;
  2. a very strong impact of the social relationships SR component and of the environment conditions in terms of lack of pollution;
  3. significant differences in the effects among geographical area in the EU.

Presented in Session 1156: Fertility