Spatial Aggregation of Unconventional Reproductive Timing: Neighbourhood Influence in Question

Mathieu Buelens, Université Libre de Bruxelles

In the western world, shift in values and attitudes towards partnership, reproduction and family (see Second Demographic Transition, Lesthaeghe & Van de Kaa, 1986), and shift from incidental to planned parenthood (Bajos & Ferrand, 2006 ; Knibiehler, 1997), contributed to reshape common reproductive ideals and make it easier to achieve them. New norms concerning quantum and timing of fertility substitute old ones in this new societal context (Liefbroer & Billari, 2010 ; Montgomery & Casterline, 1996). Two births per women (Prioux, 1994 ; Ajzen & Fishbein 1999), preferably accomplished around 30 years old (Moguérou et al., 2011 ; Liefbroer & Billari, 2010) is consider the normative reproductive behaviour. Less studied than for their fertility intensity, spatiality of women''s timing fertility patterns at the local level acknowledges metropolitan specificity: aggregating both higher ‘early’ and ''late'' fertility rates (see previous works).

This communication profiles women with timings considered ''deviant'' with regards to moral and modal reproductive behaviour. It first presents factors cited in the literature for both ''early'' and ''late'' women childbearing with specific focus on their spatial scope ; from the state to the individual level. It then exposes the relevance of Belgian metropolitan areas as a study case via cross country age specific fertility mapping in north western Europe at different levels.
The empirical section uses Crossroads Bank for Social Security individual data on 15 to 49 year old women to expose the social determinants relevant in this context. Neighbourhood influence is partially validated without structural effect via multinomial regression. Hence, results suggest, for individual characteristics adjusted, some neighbourhood contexts do have an influence on fertility timing.

We conclude discussing individual strategies, locally differentiated spatial constraints (such as housing stock) and norms enhancing (and/or with weaker disapprobation of) reproductive behaviours elsewhere considered unconventional to explain this observed neighbourhood level aggregation.

The change of societal context understoodas the Second Demographic Transition (STD, see Lesthaeghe & Van de Kaa,1986) led to rising individual autonomy from institutional authorities, higheraspiration for self-expression and self-realisation, and social recognition ofwomen gradually over than that of wives or mothers. Together with the shiftfrom incidental to planned parenthood (partly due to modern abortion andcontraception offer, Bajos & Ferrand, 2006 ; Knibiehler, 1997) itcontributed to reconsideration of childbearing decisions now increasinglyexpression of individual value orientation.      
However, even in post-modern societies considered as front-runners in the STD(i.e. north western Europe), reproductive behaviours widely match a specificpattern with European completed fertility narrowed around two children perwomen (Quesnel-Vallée & Morgan, 2003 ; Prioux, 1994 ; Ajzen & Fishbein1999) largely accomplished by women between 25 and 35 years old (60% of births inthe EU in 2010). This can be understood as a manifestation of widely sharedvalues (or common ideals) concerning both intensity and timing of fertility.With stable affective, material and residential status set as preconditions forchildbearing and the wish to enjoy life as a childless couple before becomingparents and at the appropriate time with regards to both career paths and childraising, timing is an important variable in couples’ fertility ideal (
Moguérou et al., 2011 ; Mazuy & Rozée,2008 ; Régnier-Loilier, 2007 ; Girard & Roussel, 1981).      
Consequently, teenage and elderly mothers are considered deviant with respectto the normal and modal fertility patterns and their unconventional decision stigmatised(Moguérou et al., 2011 ; Le Van, 2006). The terms ‘early’ and ‘late’ fertility themselves(defined as happening before and after an expected time) reflect a normative opinionon reproductive timing behaviours.

Across Europe socialand spatial fertility differences persist even if low in absolute terms(Kuijsten, 1996 ; Ekert-Jaffé et al., 2002 ; Douglass, 2007 ; Sardon, 2009). Fewcross-country studies tackle fertility timing at the local level, but it seemsmetropolitan areas gather most of the unconventional patterns (see previousworks).           
This communication first aims to reduce the lack of both cross country andlocal perspectives when it comes to fertility timing spatially. European agespecific fertility rates are presented as well as the factors cited in theliterature for both ''early'' and ''late'' women childbearing at differentgeographical level [see Fig. 1]. The spatial scope of these factors is emphasise,e.g. from state level for abortion legislation to individual future prospects.            

The empirical research uses Belgian Crossroads Bank for Social Securityindividual data of women between 15 and 49 years old in 2010, to profile whoare the women who carried out unconventional fertility timings in the Brusselsand Antwerp regions. To go beyond the sole description, individual and couple’scharacteristics are tested using Poisson regression. To evaluate the contextualinfluence so are neighbourhoods’ characteristics. Multinomial regressionroughly confirms the influence of the main factors cited in literature such aseducation and socio-economic position. However it also suggests specificitiesfor some neighbourhoods. Hence central neighbourhoods seem to be positivelyinfluencing teenage mothering rates “all other women in childbearing age’s characteristicsbeing equal” [see Fig. 2]. This methodology has been implemented in order totest hypotheses with controlled structural influence (Loriaux, 1987).

Aside the compositional influence, literature proposes different explanationsto this fertility timing – neighbourhood relation. First, fertility might beunder the influence of spatial constraints such as housing stock, rent prices,etc. (Kulu & Boyle, 2009).Although, to the best of my knowledge, this has never been expressed forfertility timing. Secondly, internalmigration might select women according to their fulfilled fertility timing patternsas it does on fertility intensity or socio-economic status (Sobotka, 2008 ; Kulu & Milewski, 2007).  Finally it has been exposed significant others and social environment, throughtheir opinions in particular, influence one’s fertility project and itsfulfilment (Lyngstad & Prskawetzo, 2010 ; Bernardi et al., 2007). If women and couples shape their fertility timingintentions in accordance to normsand/or perceptions of social control (Ajzen, 1991 ;Liefbroer & Billari 2010), we could discuss the existence of spatiallydifferentiated norms. Hence Brachetet al. (2010) exposed the differences in what does being a good mother mean forGerman and French people, such research is still to be done at the neighbourhoodlevel.



Presented in Session 1233: Posters