Transitions to Second Birth and Birth Intervals in France and Spain: Time Squeeze or Social Norms?
Keywords:Second births, Time squeeze, Fertility norms, Birth intervals, France, Spain
As first births are increasingly postponed across Europe, a strong two-child family norm persists. Past research has examined educational differentials in progressions to second birth, testing various hypotheses but overlooking normative aspects. Comparing fertility surveys from France and Spain, we explore whether late first-time mothers, who have fewer reproductive biological years left to conceive, accelerate the transition to a subsequent child (time squeeze effect). We also consider a normative dimension, i.e., whether women have their first child earlier or later than others in their educational and cohort groups. In both countries, among first-time mothers between 25 and 34 years of age, highly-educated women transitioned to second birth more frequently than less-educated women did. Within the same age group, highly-educated women in Spain had a second child more quickly after the firstborn than their less educated counterparts did, while there is no such difference in France. These results hold after controlling for cohort effects, but are only partly explained by a time squeeze effect. Different normative ages at first birth by education and birth cohort explain the educational gap in the likelihood of transitioning to second birth, but not the birth intervals in Spain. In sum, our analysis demonstrates a persistent educational gap in second births in this country that cannot be reduced to biological or normative effects. This suggests that a broad range of economic constraints play a role, such as unfavourable individual economic conditions and lower levels of institutional support for parenthood.
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Copyright (c) 2023 Marie-Caroline Compans, Eva Beaujouan, Cristina Suero García
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