[Publisher:] Deutsches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung (DIW) [Place:] Berlin [Year:] 1996
DIW Discussion Papers 142
This paper uses data from the GSOEP to look at the relationship between labor force status and fatherhood among men in East and West Germany. For many years, in particular from the late fifties through the mid-seventies, fertility patterns in the East and West were quite similar. With the introduction of pro-natalist policies in the East in the mid-seventies, total fertility in the East increased relative to the West. Subsequently, fertility decreased during the final years of the GDR and then plummeted shortly after Unification. Today the popular expectation is that East German fertility will rebound, probably by the end of the decade, and stabilize at the low level found in the West. The available preliminary evidence, however, is that this expectation may be overly optimistic; in fact, fertility in East Germany may remain below that found in the West. To begin with, Pohl (1995) found that with regard to attitudes about marriage and contraceptive use, young men in the East are no more family-oriented than their peers in the West. Further, Witte and Wagner (1995) show that the fertility decision of women in the East are based not only on their own employment status, but also that of their partners. Moreover, the behavior on the part of these young people in the East is wholly consistent with a Western-style rational decisionmaking model of fertility process. This paper explores this topic more fully. Based on the premise that preferences for children do not systematically vary between East German and West German young men, the analyses will focus on male labor force status as a potentially critical variable in the fertility choices of couples. The main analytical question is to consider the extent to which differences in fertility may be explained by variation in employment and economic security. Using the the pre-Unification period in the West as a baseline, we consider the degree to which the unprecedented fertility decline in the East follows from the tenuous labor market position of East German young people-men as well as women. Furthermore, it is hoped that the paper's comparative perspective will contribute to a more nuanced account of the processes of assimilation that are part and parcel of German Unification.