DP2162 | Third Births in Austria: the Effect of Public Policies, Educational Attainment and Labour-Force Attachment

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Total fertility in Austria has declined slowly but persistently from about 1.7 in the late 1970s to around 1.4 in the mid-90s, a reduction of less than twenty percent. As we show in this paper, a much stronger reduction (over fifty percent) occured over the same period in the standardized rate of third births. This decline was accompanied by a gradual postponement of the third birth over the years up through 1991-2, after which there was a sudden increase in the tempo of childbearing in response to a change in the parental-leave policy that inadvertently favoured women who had their second or subsequent child shortly after their previous one. We cannot find any indication that the general decline in third births can be seen as a consequence of women's increasing independence of their husbands at the stage in life that we study. Furthermore, it still seems to be more difficult to combine motherhood and market work in Austria than in Sweden, which is a leader in reducing such incompatibility. We conclude that these results mirror some of the ambiguities in public policies in Austria, especially the tension between the development of gender equality and the dominance of traditional norms.