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

41 Pages Posted: 1 Sep 2012 Last revised: 14 Sep 2012

See all articles by Eli Berman

Eli Berman

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Laurence R. Iannaccone

George Mason University - Department of Economics

Giuseppe Ragusa

University of Pisa - Department of Economics and Management

Date Written: August 2012

Abstract

Catholic countries of Europe pose a demographic puzzle -fertility is unprecedentedly low (total fertility=1.3) despite low female labor force participation. We model three channels of religious effects on demand for children: through changing norms, reduced market wages, and reduced costs of childrearing. We estimate their effects using new panel data on church attendance and clergy employment for thirteen European countries from 1960-2000, spanning the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). Catholic theology is uniform across countries. Yet service varied considerably across countries and over time, especially before the Council, reflecting differences in Church provision of education, health, welfare and other social services. We use differential declines in service provision --measured by nuns/capita-- to identify its effect on fertility, controlling for secular trends. They are large: 300 to 400 children per nun. Reduced religiosity (measured by church attendance) has no effect for Protestants, but predicts fertility decline for Catholics. The data suggest that service provision and religiosity complement each other -a finding consistent with preferential provision of services to church attendees. Nuns outperform priests in predicting fertility, suggesting that the childrearing cost channel dominates theology and norms.

Suggested Citation

Berman, Eli and Iannaccone, Laurence R. and Ragusa, Giuseppe, From Empty Pews to Empty Cradles: Fertility Decline Among European Catholics (August 2012). NBER Working Paper No. w18350. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2139271

Eli Berman (Contact Author)

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Department of Economics ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla, CA 92093-0508
United States
858-534-2858 (Phone)
858-534-7040 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Laurence R. Iannaccone

George Mason University - Department of Economics ( email )

4400 University Drive
Fairfax, VA 22030
United States

Giuseppe Ragusa

University of Pisa - Department of Economics and Management ( email )

Italy

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