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Trust and fertility dynamics

Number: 55
Year: 2012
Author(s): Arnstein Aassve, Francesco Billari, Léa Pessin
Keywords: generalized trust,low fertility,women’s education,outsourcing,multilevel models
We argue that fertility trends in advanced societies are in part driven by differences in trust. The argument builds around the idea that trust implies individuals and couples being willing to outsource traditional family activities to other individuals outside their own family. Trust is therefore seen as a catalyser for the process of increased female labour force participation, the diffusion of childcare facilities, and hence a halt to the continuing fertility decline. Support of this hypothesis is drawn from the World Values Survey and European Values Survey. We present evidence both from country-level regressions and from a series of multilevel analyses. We find that trust by itself is positively associated with fertility over recent decades. Moreover, trust interacts with women’s education. In particular, as higher education for women has expanded, which traditionally is seen as a robust predictor for lower fertility, trust is a precondition for achieving higher fertility among those women with very high education.

Arnstein Aassve

Universita Bocconi, Dondena Centre for Research on Social Dynamics


Francesco Billari

Universita Bocconi, Dondena Centre for Research on Social Dynamics


Léa Pessin



Keywords: Generalized trust, low fertility, women’s education, outsourcing, multilevel models


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