Cultural vs. Policy Influences on Cohort Fertility Trends: A Natural Experiment Study on the German Minority in Eastern Belgium

Sebastian Kluesener, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research
Karel Neels, University of Antwerp
Michaela Kreyenfeld, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research

Some Western European countries such as Belgium are reporting cohort fertility rates close to 2.0, while the numbers of German-speaking countries linger around 1.5-1.6. Some argue this divide can be mostly attributed to differences in cultural attitudes, while others emphasize family policy disparities as an important factor. These effects are often interrelated. In our study we attempt to disentangle them by looking at a natural experiment setting. After WW I two German districts were ceded to Belgium. The population in this area retained its German identity, but received Belgium family policy treatments. Our study uses (micro)-census data to contrast completed cohort fertilities of the German minority with the ones of Western Germany and the Flemish and French Communities in Belgium, controlling for individual-level characteristics. First results indicate that the fertility pattern of the German minority in Belgium still resembles more the German pattern, leaning support to the cultural attitudes argument.

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Presented in Session 16: Contextual and Policy Influences on Reproductive Health and Fertility