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More Children, More Life Satisfaction?

Relationship between subjective well-being and fertility for men and women in rural Ethiopia

Why are poor regions still accompanied by high fertility rates? In a new study published in Demography, Pierluigi Conzo, Giulia Fuochi and Letizia Mencarini examined the relationship between life satisfaction and fertility in rural Ethiopia. The study is based on data from the Ethiopian Rural Household Survey, a longitudinal dataset.

Their results show a positive relationship between the number of children ever born and life satisfaction of men aged 50–60. They also found, however, that having had at least one new child in the five years before the interview negatively affects reproductive-aged women’s life satisfaction. Despite the association between having a large number of children and higher poverty — as many studies have shown — the life satisfaction of fathers with many children is higher than the life satisfaction of fathers with few children. Ethiopian parents perceive the cost of having a child as compensated for by long-run benefits of different types — for instance, labour assistance in agriculture, uncertainty reduction, old-age support and social status.

In contexts where old-age support is better provided by the offspring than by institutions, high fertility may be functional to parents’ well-being in a life cycle perspective. Therefore, at the governmental level, expanding the social security system could partially diminish the fathers’ need for children as old-age insurance providers while providing easier access to formal healthcare services would improve women’s subjective well-being after childbirth.

Author(s) of the original publication: 
Daniela Vono