Childcare Availability Has Substantial Positive Effects on Fertility Among Dual-Earner Couples in Belgium
Belgium is an interesting country to study the effect of childcare on fertility for two reasons. First, the country is characterized by a long history of reconciliation policies and is, alongside France and Scandinavian countries, regarded as a context in which work and family are relatively compatible. Second, there is considerable variation in the availability and shortages in childcare between regions. Using detailed longitudinal census and register data from the 2000s combined with childcare coverage rates for 588 municipalities in Belgium, a new study by Jonas Wood and Karel Neels from the Centre for Longitudinal and Life-Course Studies at the University of Antwerp indicates clear and substantial positive effects of local formal childcare provision on the likelihood of having a child among dual-earner couples, especially when considering becoming a parent for the first time. The study also shows that the number of combined first, second and third births per woman increases substantially in response to higher childcare coverage rates over place and time. Hence, these findings support the view that formal childcare services can be a fruitful tool in the context of low and lowest-low fertility levels in the developed world.