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Denmark & Germany: Welfare Systems & Unemployment on Fertility

Study: Socioeconomic differences in the unemployment and fertility nexus: Evidence from Denmark and Germany

  • A detailed examination of how unemployment affects childbearing decisions, focusing on differences across socio-demographic groups in Germany and Denmark.
  • Previous research on unemployment’s impact on fertility showed mixed and inconclusive results. This study aims to address these gaps by considering group-specific differences, particularly in terms of educational attainment.

Why This Matters

  • Understanding the nuanced relationship between unemployment and fertility is crucial for developing effective social policies, especially in different welfare regimes.

Key Findings

  1. Impact of Male Unemployment:
    • In both Germany and Denmark, male unemployment is generally linked to delayed first and second childbearing.
    • This trend is more pronounced among older men, indicating that unemployment later in life has a more significant impact on family planning decisions.
  2. Role of Female Unemployment:
    • Female unemployment’s influence on first and second births is ambiguous.
    • While it appears to delay first births, especially among older women, its effect on second births is less clear-cut.
    • Interestingly, both male and female unemployment positively correlates with higher (third) birth risks.
  3. Educational Gradients:
    • There’s a strong correlation between education levels and fertility during periods of unemployment.
    • Highly educated women and men tend to delay childbearing when unemployed, in contrast to their less educated counterparts.
    • Young, less educated unemployed women have a notably higher propensity for first births, seeing motherhood as a stable role amidst uncertain employment prospects.

Contextual Differences: Germany vs. Denmark

  • Germany, representing a conservative welfare regime, exhibits stronger links between male employment stability and fertility.
  • Denmark’s universal welfare system seems to lessen the impact of unemployment on family planning.
  • These findings highlight the importance of welfare state context in understanding the unemployment-fertility relationship.

Subgroup-Specific Insights

  • The study reveals that unemployment’s impact on fertility varies not just by gender and age but also by educational background.
  • Unemployed individuals with lower education levels do not necessarily view unemployment as a barrier to having children, contrary to their higher-educated counterparts.

Further Implications

  • The study’s insights showcase that social systems can offset the damage of unstable male employment on family sizes.
  • The role of unobserved characteristics, such as individual life course decisions and contraceptive behavior, could further clarify these relationships.

Remaining Questions

  • The influence of a partner’s employment status on fertility decisions remains unexplored.
  • The study could not delve into the life courses of those who choose to have children under adverse economic conditions, which could provide further understanding.

Policy Relevance

  • Policymakers need to consider these complex dynamics when designing welfare and support programs.
  • Tailoring policies to specific socio-demographic groups, considering their unique responses to unemployment, could lead to more effective interventions.


This comprehensive study sheds light on the multifaceted relationship between unemployment and fertility. The findings underscore the importance of considering individual socio-demographic characteristics, including education level, in understanding and addressing the implications of unemployment on family planning decisions. These insights are particularly valuable for policymakers and social planners in crafting targeted and effective welfare policies.