An economic analysis of the gap between desired and actual fertility: The case of spain

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Family size is the outcome of sequential decisions influenced both by preferences and by ongoing changes in the environment where a family lives. During the last two decades, the gap between the number of children women prefer and their actual fertility has widened in Spain. The paper uses the 1985 and 1999 Spanish Fertility Surveys to study whether the tightening of the labor market and worsening of economic conditions in Spain during the last 20 years are important determinants of this change. I find that women facing high unemployment rates in their mid-twenties tend to restrict their fertility below their ideal level. Among women in the labor force, the stability of a public sector job lessens the difficulties of balancing employment and family and of achieving preferred fertility. Temporary contracts work in the opposite direction. Findings are robust to the inclusion of controls for within-couple discrepancies in either preferences or religious affiliation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)75-95
Number of pages21
JournalReview of Economics of the Household
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2006
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Economics and Econometrics


  • Desired number of children
  • Fertility
  • Religion
  • Short-term contracts
  • Unemployment


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