Domestic Household Burden and the Fulfilment of Female Fertility Intentions across Six European Countries

Alyce Raybould, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Rebecca Sear, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

Despite considerable economic and cultural change across Europe in the last 50 years, an ideal mean family size of 2 has persisted (Sobotka & Beaujouan, 2014). However, observed fertility levels remain below this. One of the most consistent findings in the literature to explain this gap is variation in male partner investment in domestic life, affecting both a woman’s intention to have a child, and her completed fertility (e.g. Park et al., 2010; Tazi-Preve et al., 2004). The novel contribution of this paper is to examine whether this same explanatory variable is associated with the fulfilment of intentions for a child. We use the Gender and Generations Survey across 6 European countries to explore whether the completion of stated intention for a child in the next 3 years among women was associated with the division of household labour. The explanatory variable was an index of the burden of 4 household tasks, developed using reports of how the partners divided these tasks. For those with children, an additional childcare burden index was created using 6 different tasks. We found some evidence among the whole sample that when the household burden decreased, the likelihood of intending to have a child increased. Furthermore, we found more convincing evidence that the same relationship existed between diminishing household burden and increased likelihood of fulfilling the intention for a child among those who stated a positive intention for a child in the first survey wave. Decreased childcare burden was also associated with increased odds of fulfilling an intention for a child amongst those who were intending for subsequent children. This project was designed and completed for the principal author''s thesis at the European Doctoral School of Demography.


Despiteconsiderable economic and cultural change across Europe in the last 50 years,an ideal mean family size (MIFS) of 2 has persisted (Sobotka & Beaujouan,2014). Observed fertility, however, consistently falls below this. Thissuggests that women are experiencing obstacles to achieving their desiredfertility.

Tobetter understand the pathways between fertility intentions and outcomes, twotheoretical frameworks have been considered. The first is the Theory of PlannedBehaviour (Azjen; 1999), which posits that fertility outcomes are the result ofa complex interaction of both macro and micro influences on behaviour. In thisframework, a gender imbalanced society can be viewed as an obstacle to womenachieving both their childbearing and career goals (Myrskylä et al., 2011; Mills, 2010).

Thesecond theoretical framework utilises evolutionary theory. The theory predictsthat women who experience higher levels of support will experience fewerphysiological and psychological costs to reproduction, and thus have morechildren than those experiencing lower levels of support (Turke, 1981; Hrdy,2009). Several studies have empirically demonstrated this (Schaffnit & Sear, 2017; Cooke, 2003; Mencarini andTanturri, 2004; Olah, 2003).   

Therefore, theliterature has led us to hypothesise that the share of domestic burden betweena woman and her partner will exert an influence on the fulfilment offertility intentions.<>RESEARCH QUESTIONS

1)     Howdoes domestic burden affect the probability of a woman intending to have achild over the next 3 years?

2)     Howdoes domestic burden affect the probability that a woman will fulfil herintention for a child over the next 3 years?


The sample is derivedfrom two waves of Gender and Generations Survey (GGS) from Austria, Bulgaria,Czech Republic, France, Hungary and Lithuania. Of all countries in the survey,these six offered satisfactory variables regarding housework and fertilityintentions. This analysis was limited to 17-45 year old partnered women, whowere able to conceive with that partner, and were not pregnant at the time ofthe first survey wave. Two logistic regression analyses were used.

Thisstudy examines the formation of the intention to have a child within the next 3years, the interval period of the GGS waves, and whether this intention isrealised by the second wave. The yes/no responses to the question ‘Do youintend to have a/another child in the next 3 years?’ were used as thedependent variable for the first research question, and the selection criteriafor the second question. For the second question, the dependent variable is thebirth of a child in the 3 year interval.

Themain explanatory variable for the two research questions is the ‘burden’ of domesticduties. For the whole sample (model 1), and respondents without children (model2), an index of female household burden was created based on how often therespondent reported doing four household tasks. Different values were assignedbased on who was reported to perform the task: -2 if always respondent, -1 ifusually respondent, 0 if both partners equally or if by another individual, 1if usually partner, 2 if always partner. A total across all four tasks was thencalculated to form a scale from -8 to 8. The Cronbach’s alpha measuring thereliability of this index is 0.69. The discrete outcomes of this index werethen grouped evenly into four categories for the regression (-8 to -4, -4 to 0,0 to 4 and 4 to 8).

Ifthe respondent already has at least one child (model 3), a second index wasused in conjunction to the household burden index. The survey asked thedistribution of 6 childcare tasks between the partners. The index was createdin the same format as the previous index. The Cronbach’s alpha is 0.76.

Theanalysis controlled for the woman’s age, partnership status, employment type,education, financial situation and parity.


We found evidence thatwhen the household burden decreased, the likelihood of intending to have achild increased. Women who had the heaviest burden of household and childcaretasks tended to have the lowest probability of a positive fertility intention,though this did not hold across all categories of the two indices (table 1).However, there was more convincing evidence that the same relationship existedbetween diminishing household and childcare burden and increased likelihood offulfilling the intention for a child (table 2). This relationship may have beenparticularly driven by the division of childcare among couples with children.Although effect sizes for the household burden index were similar in models 2and 3, they were only statistically significant for those with children.Furthermore, when both indices were included in the model, only childcareburden was significantly associated with the fulfilment of fertilityintentions. However, as before, the odds ratios for the household burden weresimilar in models 2 and 3.


Presented in Session 1166: Fertility