Partnership dynamics and the fertility gap between Sweden and Spain

Momoko Nishikido, Queen's University Belfast
Qi Cui, Center for Demographic Studies
Albert Esteve, Center for Demographic Studies (Barcelona)

Below-replacement fertility has persisted in developed European countries for a few decades, though, with variation, and a growing literature has found the transition to first birth to be a key factor in the declining levels of fertility in these societies. In this paper, we explore the role of stable partnership formation in the transition to first birth and provide new insights to existing macro-level theories on the heterogeneity of below-replacement-level fertility. We use retrospective survey data for Spain (2018 Spanish Fertility Survey) and Sweden (2012/13 Swedish Generations and Gender Survey) to implement three distinct methodologies taking a cohort and gender perspective: transition probabilities to first birth, Kitagawa decomposition, and standardization. Our findings highlight the importance of having a stable partner between ages 25-35 in entering parenthood among the Spanish and Swedish, and the large contribution of early partnership formation to Sweden’s higher fertility levels relative to Spain’s. Forming a partnership three/five years earlier would help Spanish women/men to increase first-order fertility to Swedish levels. In terms of sex, women and men shared similar results. Most importantly, we find that a large fraction of fertility differentials between below-replacement countries may be directly attributable to differences in partnership dynamics.

Keywords: Fertility and childbirth, Family demography, Cross-country comparative analyses, Harmonized data sets

See extended abstract.

  Presented in Session 85. European Fertility: Recent findings