Work package 2: Macro perspective on fertility trends and institutional context

Work package leader

Olivier Thévenon
Institut National d’Etudes Démographiques
133, Boulevard Davout
75980 Paris cedex 20


  • To construct a macro-level human Fertility Database that provides information on basic indicators about fertility trends in Europe.
  • To provide a detailed picture, at the macro-level, of cross-national differences in the societal norms concerning the timing of childbirth and concerning childlessness.
  • To document the cross-country variations in the policy support to fertility, with detailed estimation for different types of households and different fertility behaviours.
  • To analyse, still at the macro-level, the relationships between cross-national variations in fertility and differences in economic and institutional contexts.

Description of work

Task 1: Demographic synthetic fertility indices by parity, for periods of time as well as for cohorts of women, will be collected. A Fertility Database (FD) will be elaborated, based on existing data bases and new data, under the same features as the Human Mortality Database: freely accessible through the Internet, user-friendly, detailed and continually updated and documented. A protocol will be defined and tested with data from at least two countries (Czech Republic and Austria). A model of collaborative agreement will be proposed to institutions and scholars potentially interested.

Task 2: Using data from 26 European countries participating in the 2006 wave of the European Social Survey (ESS), it will be examined to what extent societal norms concerning fertility-related behaviour exist in different European countries and the content of these societal norms will be described. We will compare the norms about the appropriate timing of fertility, about childlessness and norms about the combination of parenthood and full-time labour force participation.

Task 3: A matching of available international databases will be conducted, in order to document the support received through family policies by individuals and households with specific family and economic situation. Differences on the support will be estimated for different types of households and fertility behaviour, using the previous mentioned data on fertility to identify these behaviours. The support received through intra-family transfers, firms and local support will be taken into account as far as possible. Data sets reviewed will include those provided by the OECD, the GGS (Generations and Gender Surveys) contextual basis, the European Values Studies and other European Surveys (such as ISSP and EU-SILC) to document support provided by firms (Establishment Survey on Working Time 2004-2005).

Task 4: On the basis of data collected, analyses will be conducted to identify, at the macro-level, which extend cross-national variations in fertility are connected to the differences in institutional contexts. In particular, one still needs to understand the exact institutional settings that provide households sufficient motivation and security to start or to continue family formation and how support to fertility is connected with other policy objectives (reducing poverty, support child development, reducing gender inequalities in the labour market, etc.). Three main questions will be addressed:
(1) Are policy packages designed to support specific family situations or specific stage of family formation? Detailed estimations will be provided of the support received by households in different “typical” family-work situations, differentiated by parity, timing of birth, such as identified by the macro-analysis of fertility.
(2) Are institutional contexts sufficiently coherent to provide the secure environment needed to start family formation or to enlarge the family? In particular, the continuity and coherence of institutional support over children life-cycle will be assessed.
(3) Are differences in policy packages related to differences in economic situation and policy orientations and values? Here, we will question the relationships between fertility variations identified at the first stage and the identified variations in the institutional support. The correspondence between cross-national differences in the support of fertility and the varieties of welfare state regimes will be questioned.


  • Fertility Database, a protocol for two countries.
  • Macro-level database on fertility, family policies, transfers from firms and from the family.
  • Analysis at the macro-meso level of the policy support to households in different family-work situations and variations in fertility behaviour.