Climate change and reproductive intentions in Europe

Alessandra De Rose, Università di Roma "La Sapienza"
Maria Rita Testa, Wittgenstein Centre (IIASA, VID/ÖAW, WU)

It is widely recognized that climate change is anthropogenic and that a continuous worsening of environmental conditions has strong impacts on populations’ and individuals’ well-being. Besides the direct negative effect on mortality and morbidity climate change threats traditional livelihoods. Loss of livelihood may encourage out-migration and may constitute an obstacle for having children. In response to climate change people may change their attitudes and choose to adopt more responsible behaviors. Aim of this paper is to investigate the effects of environmental conditions on human reproductive behavior in the highest industrialized countries. We discuss the hypothesis that individuals fearing for a foreseen unhealthy environment tend to delay childbearing or give up having children, thus contributing to a reduced ecological footprint. These effects could result in further fertility reduction or limited recovery in the years to come. The empirical analysis is based on the Eurobarometer surveys carried out in 2011 in the 27 EU countries. The analytical sample consists of 8278 people aged 20 to 45 who answered the question on fertility intentions: 3556 childless, 2096 with one child, and 2626 with two children. Multilevel ordinal regression models on additionally intended number of children have been applied, with individuals as first level units and countries at second level. Results seem to indicate that people’s concerns about climate change do not influence individuals’ intended number of children. If there is a relationship, this is positive: the higher the intended number of children, the stronger the concern. This suggests that the concern of mothers and fathers to pass an healthy and enjoyable environment to the future generations could have a positive effect on social behaviours and stimulate proper policies at institutional level. We also observed a high country-level variability in fertility intentions, but not related to the amount of environmental concern.

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Presented in Session 12: Population dynamics and climate change