First births in Sweden: self-perceived and objective constraints on childbearing

Sara Ström, Stockholm University
Eva Bernhardt, Stockholm University

Using data from two independent sources – The Swedish Housing and Life Course Cohort Study (HOLK) and the Young Adult Panel Study (YAPS) – we will analyze self-perceived and objective constraints on first births in Sweden. As point of departure, we take the widely cited work in studies of population and fertility "Becoming a parent in Europe" by John Hobcraft and Kathleen Kiernan (1995). They argue that five factors together form the prerequisites for childbearing in modern societies: partnership, education, employment, housing and security. We will analyze first birth propensities in relation to the following three normative factors: educational attainment, steady income and housing. We will focus on 1) the relative importance of each factor in relation to the other factors and 2) the importance of different interactions between these factors. The analyses are based on information about married and cohabiting respondents only. We hypothesize that, in addition to having entered a coresidential relationship, having a completed education is regarded as the first step, and a prerequisite for achieving an adequate housing situation and obtaining a sufficient income to start a family. As for housing and income, a solution to the housing issue can be obtained after a pregnancy has occurred or even after the birth of the first child, but an adequate income should preferably be attained beforehand. Preliminary results indicate that not having a sufficient income seems to be the crucial self-perceived constraint on childbearing for men, likely reflecting the pervasive strength of the male provider role ideology in Sweden (in the minds of young men anyway). Using register data and self-reported housing biographies, housing seems to be the factor of greatest importance for first births from an “objective” perspective.

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Presented in Session 80: Realisation of fertility intentions