Attitudes about childlessness: cross national comparisons and methodological observations

Tanya Koropeckyj-Cox, University of Florida
Zeynep Copur, Hacettepe University
Alin M. Ceobanu, University of Florida

Sustained, below-replacement fertility in many European societies has raised concerns about population decline and about values that may now favor very low fertility, or even childlessness, over the longer term. Recent research has highlighted the variations in ideal numbers of children across European societies and possible implications for fertility delays and permanent childlessness (Testa, 2006). In addition, scholars have noted the potential role of attitudes about childbearing in influencing the future behavior of young adult cohorts (Goldstein, Lutz, & Testa, 2003). Within this context, the current paper has three major aims: 1) to review the available evidence on attitudes about childlessness in Europe (and comparisons with the U.S.); 2) to assess the content and utility of different measures of attitudes that have been used in various cross-national survey projects; and 3) to identify the micro- and macro-level factors related to greater support of (or preference for) childlessness. We review existing research based on Eurobarometer, European Social Surveys (ISSP), Family and Fertility Surveys, and World Values Surveys. We discuss the relative merits of different kinds of attitudinal questions, including direct survey items as well as indirect vignette methods that have been used in smaller survey projects. Our analyses of micro- and macro-level correlates of attitudes utilize data from the World Values Surveys, focusing on questions about childbearing and childlessness. These multi-level models examine individual-level correlates of attitudes (including gender, age, education, urban residence, and employment) as well as country-level economic, demographic, and social variables. Our aim is to highlight and explore the subjective components -- attitudes and values – that both shape and reflect contemporary social trends in Europe and North America.

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Presented in Poster Session 1