Preference Theory and Low Fertility: A Comparative Perspective

Agnese Vitali, Università Bocconi
Francesco C. Billari, Università Bocconi
Maria Rita Testa, Vienna Institute of Demography

The discussion on the causes of the most recent fertility decline in Europe, and in particular on the emergence of “lowest low” fertility, emphasizes the relevance of cultural factors. The heterogeneity of preferences concerning the “career vs. family” dichotomy has been systematized in Hakim’s Preference Theory. This paper makes use of new comparative data from the 2004/05 round of the European Social Survey to test the links between individual-level preferences and fertility outcomes and intentions in a variety of societal settings. Results confirm an association between work-family lifestyle preferences and actual fertility in a variety of European countries, while they do not support the relevance of lifestyle preferences on 3-year fertility intentions.

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Presented in Session 3: Low Fertility in Comparative Perspective