A wide body of existing research has concluded that the highly religious have higher fertility and are more likely to plan on having additional children. What motivates the highly religious to have more children than the less religious? The aim of a study by Christoph Bein (Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute (NIDI-KNAW) & University of Groningen), Monika Mynarska (Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University in Warsaw) and Anne Gauthier (NIDI-KNAW & University of Groningen) was to investigate whether highly religious people perceive higher benefits and lower costs of having children than the less religious, and whether this difference can explain why religiosity goes hand in hand with more frequent childbearing plans.
The authors used data from Wave 2 of the Polish Generations and Gender Survey (GGS). It is unique among the GGS datasets in that it includes an array of questions about the perceived costs and benefits of having children. In the survey, the respondents were asked how relevant various costs or benefits are in their decision to have children. Based on their answers, it was possible to create indices on the level of perceived costs and benefits and to analyse them in combination with religiosity (expressed as the importance of religion in one’s life). In turn, this was used to assess how they influence whether the respondents plan to have a child in the next three years (short-term fertility intentions).
The analysis confirmed that the more religious people are, the more likely people are to plan to have a child in the near future. Almost one third of this effect was explained by highly religious men and women recognizing higher benefits of having children. Only a few additional percentage points of the effect could be attributed to the religious respondents seeing less costs related to childbearing.
The costs of childbearing had another effect on childbearing decisions. It turned out that for highly religious women, the perceived costs were simply not that important for their childbearing plans. This means that highly religious women had high fertility intentions regardless of whether they perceived high or low costs to having children. In contrast, for women of low religiosity, perceived high costs of childbearing limited their fertility plans. None of these effects were found for men.
Overall, the study demonstrated that highly religious people are more likely to plan on having children because they think differently about the consequences of having children, and, in the case of women, they also act differently on the costs of childrearing.