Realization, Postponement or Abandonment of Childbearing Intentions in Four European Countries

By Balázs Kapitány, Zsolt Spéder

This study investigates the realization of time-related positive fertility intentions using a comparative approach. Four European countries of medium size are compared, all with rather different fertility regimes: the Netherlands and Switzerland in western Europe, and Hungary and Bulgaria in the east. Using harmonized data from four panel surveys conducted in two waves between 2000 and 2007, a typology of fertility intentions and outcomes (postponement, abandonment or realization) can be constructed using multinomial logistic regressions. Age is a universal factor of success and failure in realization of intentions; above 35 years postponement and abandonment become frequent, and abandonment generally increases with age. In the eastern post-communist countries, younger age groups do not postpone as much as women around their 30s. Childless people postpone, and higher parity parents abandon more, but certain countries deviate from this pattern: Bulgarians postpone if they have one child, and the Swiss abandon in case of childlessness. The higher educated are generally more accurate planners, especially when successful realization versus abandonment are compared. Findings are gender related in Hungary: employed women and unemployed men are clearly over-represented among abandoners.


  • fertility
  • fertility intention
  • childbearing intentions
  • fertility behaviour
  • fertility dynamics
  • postponement
  • Europe
  • comparison
  • panel survey
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