Gender role attitudes and late transition to parenthood in Sweden

Livia Olah, Stockholm University

In most countries of Europe undergoing the Second Demographic Transition, unprecedented low fertility levels have been accompanied by a dramatic increase of the mean age at first birth for both women and men in the late 1990s-early 2000s. Most research has focused on women’s increasing economic independence (due to rising educational attainment as well as labor-force participation) as the most likely explanation of these trends, and less attention has been paid to the impact of changing values and attitudes even though normative pressures for parenthood have greatly weakened. In the context of the dual-earner family (soon) being the dominant model in most European societies, the role of changing gender-role attitudes for the current demographic trends seems to be of importance. Earlier studies have shown a beneficial effect of egalitarian attitudes on continued childbearing, whereas little influence was found for first childbearing at younger ages for women, and more traditional men were found to be more likely to become fathers at relatively early ages. Yet, little is known about the influence of gender-role attitudes on the late transition to parenthood, which is the issue I seek to shed more light on. I focus on Sweden given its long history of less traditional gender relations at both the societal level and in the family. Data extracted from a new panel survey called Family and Working Life in the 21st Century, conducted by Statistics Sweden in 1999 and 2003, completed with register data on births until 2006, will be analyzed using hazard regression models. Women and men will be separately analyzed in order to detect gender differences, if any, in the effects of attitudes regarding gender equality in the public sphere as well as a number of individual background characteristics, partnership behavior and labor-market attachment on the late transition to parenthood.

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Presented in Session 21: Gender Role Division, Gender Role Attitudes and Fertility