Gender Roles, Gender (In)equality and Fertility: An Empirical Test of Five Gender Equity Indices


  • Melinda Mills Department of Sociology/ICS, University of Groningen, Groningen The Netherlands



The division of gender roles in the household and societal level gender (in)equality have been situated as one of the most powerful factors underlying fertility behaviour. Despite continued theoretical attention to this issue by demographers, empirical research integrating gender roles and equity in relation to fertility remains surprisingly sparse. This paper first provides a brief review of previous research that has examined gender roles and fertility followed by a comparison of six prominent gender equality indices: Gender-related Development Index (GDI), Gender Empowerment Measure (GEM), Gender Gap Index (GGI), Gender Equality Index (GEI), the European Union Gender Equality Index (EU-GEI) and the Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI). The paper then tests how five of these indices impact fertility intentions and behaviour using a series of multilevel (random-coefficient) logistic regression models, applying the European Social Survey (2004/5). The GDI, with its emphasis on human development, adjusted for gender, has the strongest and significant effect on fertility intentions. The EU-GEI, which focuses on the universal caregiver model, uncovers that more equity significantly lowers fertility intentions, but only for women. The remaining indicators show no significant impact. The paper concludes with a reflection and suggestions for future research.