Two Are Best? The Persistence of Two-Child Family Ideals and Preferences in Europe

Tomas Sobotka, Vienna Institute of Demography
Eva Beaujouan, Wittgenstein Centre (IIASA, VID/ÖAW, WU)

The fall of fertility to very low level in many European countries opens up the possibility that family size ideals will decline to similarly low level. We revisit the data on ideal family size among women in European countries between 1979 and 2011 to explore how persistent and universal the two-child family norm has been during this period. We also study whether sub-replacement family size ideals have emerged in Austria and Germany, as suggested by earlier research. Our analysis documents a continuation of a strong normative orientation towards a two-child family. In East and South, North and West, over a half of Europeans consistently considered two children as an ideal family over the analysed period. The mean ideal family size decreased towards two in Southern, Central and Eastern Europe, but remained around this threshold everywhere—including Austria and Germany. In parallel, the share of women expressing a one-child ideal increased slightly.

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Presented in Poster Session 2: Fertility Intentions and Behavior