Changing Reasons for Not Wanting a Second Child Among Mothers in Italy before and after the Global Economic Crisis

Elspeth Graham, University of St Andrews
Francesca Fiori, University of Edinburgh
Francesca Rinesi, ISTAT Italian National Institute of Statistics

Since the onset of the economic recession, the notion that economic hardship might lead individuals to revise or postpone their childbearing plans has been the object of renewed scholarly interest. This study enhances existing knowledge by investigating changes in the fertility intentions of mothers residing in Italy, before and after the global economic crisis of 2007/08. It focuses particularly on mothers with one child and compares their reasons for not intending to have a second child in 2002 and in 2012.

Data are drawn from the ISTAT Sample Survey on Births and Mothers, which not only includes a question on future fertility intentions but, most importantly, also asks mothers what their main reason is for not intending to have another child in the future. Multinomial logistic regression models are fitted to examine the relationships between the reasons (economic constraints, age limits, preferences and other reasons) for not wanting another child and the main socio-demographic characteristics of primiparous mothers, separately for 2002 and 2012.

Descriptive findings show that the proportion of primiparous mothers with negative fertility intentions increased from 21 percent to 25 percent over the 10 year period. Further, the analysis of their reasons for not wanting another child reveals that this is mostly due to an increase in the proportion of mothers whose negative intentions are motivated by economic constraints.

Multivariate results show that socio-economic differences among mothers reporting economic constraints as their main reason for not having a second child have narrowed over time but that age differences have become more pronounced. These findings reflect the deterioration of labour market participation for all households in Italy and indicate that the uncertainty introduced by the recent economic recession is likely to suppress fertility further as more women ‘stop at one’.


Changingreasons for not wanting a second child among mothers in Italy before and afterthe global economic crisis.

 

Introduction

Sincethe onset of the economic recession, the notion that economic hardship mightlead individuals to revise or postpone their childbearing plans has been theobject of renewed scholarly interest. Relatively little research, however, hasbeen carried out on the ways in which economic recessions affect fertilityintentions, and even less attention has been paid to understanding the reasonsbehind intentions not to have a(nother) child. This paper investigates the fertility intentions ofwomen who already have one child and provides new empirical evidence byexploiting a unique dataset that allows the study of mothers’ reasons for notwanting another child. At the aggregate level, the expected number of childrenfor women in Italy has long been around two per woman (ISTAT 2009; 2014). Thestudy of motivations behind a departure from this two-child norm at theindividual level is therefore crucial for understanding whether thereproductive plans of women who stop at one reflect their preferences for asmaller family or are shaped by adverse circumstances, often beyond theircontrol.

Dataand methods

Dataare drawn from the ISTAT Sample Survey on Births and Mothers, which interviewsa large and representative sample of mothers who had a birth approximately 18months before. It represents the main source of information for studying thereproductive behaviour of mothers residing in Italy, as well as theirsocioeconomic context. The dataset not only includes a question on futurefertility intentions but, most importantly, also asks mothers what their mainreason is for not intending to have another child in the future. Multinomiallogistic regression models are fitted to examine the relationships between the reasonsfor not wanting another child and the main socio-demographic characteristics ofprimiparous mothers, separately for 2002 and 2012. Reasons – the outcomevariable – are divided into four categories, namely economic constraints, agelimits, preferences (has achieved desired parity) and other reasons.

Selectedfindings

Figure1 reports the proportion of mothers not intending to have another child in thefuture (left),  and the proportion of primiparous mothers only, by their mainreason for not intending to have the second child (right).

Figure1: Descriptive findings

 

 

Themost noteworthy descriptive finding relates to the increase over time in theproportion of primiparousmothers with negative fertility intentions, and the associated changes in therelative importance of their main reason for not having the second child. Inparticular, the proportion of primiparous mothers reporting economic reasonsrose from 16.7 to 25.8 percent, becoming the most cited reason in 2012 for nothaving a second child.

Figure2 reports selected findings from the multivariate analyses, in relation to theprobability of citing economic constraints as the main reason for not intendingto have the second child.

Figure2: Predicted probabilities of reporting Economic Constraints as the main reasonfor not intending to have a second child.

Asexpected, mothers whose households had experienced economic difficulties sincethe birth of the first child are more likely to report economic constraints astheir motivation for not intending to have another child. Nevertheless,differences have become less pronounced in the more recent period. Similarly,mothers with low educational qualifications and mothers who were in moreprecarious employment (fixed-term or atypical contracts) were more likely toreport economic difficulties as the main reason for their fertility intentionsin 2002. In 2012, however, educational differences have disappeared, as havethe differences between permanent and fixed-term contracts. In 2012, it isparticularly mothers who are unemployed, as well as those whose partners areunemployed, who stand out for being  the most likely to report economicconstraints as their main reason for not wanting another child.

Conclusions

Between 2002 and2012, the proportion of primiparous mothers in Italy not intending to have asecond child increased notably. The economic recession appears to have played arole in shaping their negative intentions as the proportion of mothers whoreport economic constraints as their main reason for not intending anotherchild increased significantly. Further, the deterioration of labour market participationfor all households in Italy is reflected in the narrowing of socio-economicdifferences among these mothers.

Italy has been alow fertility country for more than two decades. The findings of this studyindicate that the uncertainty introduced by the recent economic recession islikely to suppress fertility further as more women ‘stop at one’. Economicconstraints have now become the most prominent reason for not having a secondchild. This could mean that fertility will rise after economic uncertaintiesease but, if the economic recession continues for some time, is more likely toresult in lower completed family size for the generation of women affected.

 

Presented in Session 1152: Fertility