Happiness and Fertility Globally and Across Countries: Does the Context Matter?

Rachel Margolis, University of Pennsylvania

The literature on fertility and subjective well-being has neglected comparative analysis. This paper investigates whether the relationship between fertility and happiness is consistent across countries using data from the World Values Surveys from 42 countries. Preliminary findings indicate that globally, those with children are less happy than those without children, but cross-national analyses revealed large country differences. We find that having children is associated with lower happiness in African and South American countries which are experiencing rapid fertility declines and East Asian countries with strict family planning policies. In three Eastern European countries, having children is associated with higher happiness, but in Western Europe, Australia and Japan we find no differences in happiness between those with children and the childless. These findings indicate that the relationship between childrearing and well-being is sensitive to the context, and highlight the importance of fertility trends and the country’s stage in the fertility transition.

  See paper

Presented in Session 91: Social Demographic Aspects of Fertility