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Empirical Investigation of Declining Childbirth: Psychosocial and Economic Conditions in Japan

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Asia Health Policy Program working paper # 36

August 5, 2013

AHPPwp cvr36

Background: For the past two decades, more and more women in certain European countries, Japan, and the United States are giving birth to their first child at a considerably later age than ever before. It remains unclear as to what extent this age-related general fertility decline is affected by changing social and cultural norms.

Method: The Global Centers of Excellence Survey was conducted by Osaka University in Japan (n=5313) in 2009. Multivariate regression analyses were conducted to examine the impact of psychosocial norms, cultural differences, and economic conditions on the perception of childbearing.

Results: The findings suggest that a subjective measure of happiness has a significant influence on childbearing. A society with income inequalities between classes discourages childbearing. It is observed that women’s higher labor force participation generates a negative impact on mother-child relations which causes discouragement of childbearing. A higher female labor force participation stemmed from a transition of a traditional society into a modern and market-oriented society discourages childbearing.

Conclusions/implications: A woman’s decision to delay childbearing is based on her perception of psychosocial norms with surrounding economic environment and her own value of opportunity in the market oriented society. Childbearing also imposes psycho-economic burdens on the working population under mix of a traditional, patriarchal society, and a modern market oriented framework. Childbearing incentives could be a strategic policy to encourage positive attitudes of childbearing in general and proper welfare policy, labor law(s), employment conditions, and social security system for a working mother with a child or children.

Key words: Childbearing, socioeconomic factors, psychosocial norms, subjective happiness

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