The Catholic countries of Europe pose a puzzle for economic demography – their fertility is the lowest in history despite low female labor force participation rates. Total fertility rates now average 1.4 lifetime children per woman in Southern Europe. We apply a panel on church attendance and clergy employment from 1960-2000 to the study of fertility decline among European Catholics since the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). Though Catholic theology is fairly uniform across countries, the level of services provided, (as measured by nuns per Catholic) varies considerably both across countries and over time, indicating large differences in Church provision of education, health, welfare and other social services. We find that the interaction of service provision (nuns/catholic) decline and religiosity (church attendance) decline strongly predicts declining fertility. The nuns/catholic effect provides evidence that religion affects fertility not only through preferences but also functionally, through social service provision. Moreover, church attendance is apparently necessary for Church social service provision to affect fertility. Nuns outperform priests in predicting fertility, suggesting that social service provision may matter more for fertility than do the theological services provided by priests which might affect preferences. In the context of a simple model in which religious services can raise fertility either by lowering the shadow cost of a mother’s time or by lowering the effective cost of raising children, the data imply that the latter effect dominates

From Empty Pews to Empty Cradles: Fertility Decline Among European Catholics

Giuseppe Ragusa
2007

Abstract

The Catholic countries of Europe pose a puzzle for economic demography – their fertility is the lowest in history despite low female labor force participation rates. Total fertility rates now average 1.4 lifetime children per woman in Southern Europe. We apply a panel on church attendance and clergy employment from 1960-2000 to the study of fertility decline among European Catholics since the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). Though Catholic theology is fairly uniform across countries, the level of services provided, (as measured by nuns per Catholic) varies considerably both across countries and over time, indicating large differences in Church provision of education, health, welfare and other social services. We find that the interaction of service provision (nuns/catholic) decline and religiosity (church attendance) decline strongly predicts declining fertility. The nuns/catholic effect provides evidence that religion affects fertility not only through preferences but also functionally, through social service provision. Moreover, church attendance is apparently necessary for Church social service provision to affect fertility. Nuns outperform priests in predicting fertility, suggesting that social service provision may matter more for fertility than do the theological services provided by priests which might affect preferences. In the context of a simple model in which religious services can raise fertility either by lowering the shadow cost of a mother’s time or by lowering the effective cost of raising children, the data imply that the latter effect dominates
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11568/958538
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