May 2005

IZA DP No. 1584: Differences in Desired and Actual Fertility: An Economic Analysis of the Spanish Case

published in: Review of Economics of the Household, 2006, 4 (1), 75-95

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 twenty 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 working-women, the stability of a public sector job lessens the difficulties of balancing work and family and of achieving preferred fertility. Temporary contracts work in the opposite direction. Findings are robust to the inclusion of controls for the use of family planning as well as within-couple discrepancies in either preferences or religious affiliation.