Instability of Work Careers and Fertility: A Meta-Analysis of European Research Findings. Demography, (2021) 58 (3): 871–900.

Alderotti G., Vignoli D., Baccini M., Matysiak A.

The relationship between instability of employment careers and fertility is a major topic in demographic research. Since, particularly, the Great Recession, increasing numbers of papers on this matter have been published. Employment instability, which most often manifests in an experience of unemployment or temporary employment, is usually deemed to have a negative effect on fertility, but different fertility reactions are hypothesized by sociological theories, and micro-level evidence is fragmented and contradictory. In this article, we use meta-analytic techniques to synthesize European research findings and to offer general conclusions about the effects of employment instability on fertility (in terms of direction and size) and to rank different sources of career instability. Our results suggest that instability of employment careers has a non-negligible negative effect on fertility. For men, being unemployed is more detrimental for fertility than having time-limited employment; for women, time-limited employment is the worst condition for fertility. Next, the negative effect of time-limited employment on fertility is more severe in Southern European countries, where social protection for families is least generous. Finally, meta-regression estimates demonstrate that failing to account for income and partner’s characteristics leads to an overestimation of the negative effect of employment instability on fertility. We advance the role of these two factors as potential mechanisms by which employment instability affects fertility.

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