Skip to content

Research at St Andrews

Choosing to remain childless? A comparative study of fertility intentions among women and men in Italy and Britain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Francesca Fiori, Francesca Rinesi, Elspeth Graham

School/Research organisations


Pathways to childlessness may differ not only between individuals but also at the population level. This paper investigates differences in childlessness by comparing two countries – Britain and Italy – where levels of childlessness are high in comparison with many other European countries, but which have distinct fertility trajectories and family regimes. Using data from two large, representative national samples of women and men of reproductive age in a co-residential partnership, it presents a rich analysis of the characteristics associated with intended childlessness, net of the aspects associated with being childless at interview. Although childlessness intentions are generally comparable between men and women of the same age, results show a link between socio-economic disadvantage and childlessness for British men as well as the importance of men’s employment for childbearing decisions in Italy. These findings support the view that pathways into childlessness are gendered and highlight the importance of partnership context in the understanding of fertility intentions. Then, the level of childlessness at interview is comparable across the two countries. However, a higher proportion of respondents in Italy is only provisionally childless whereas a larger proportion of British respondents intends to remain childless. Framing these differences in fertility intentions within the wider context of family and fertility regimes allows insight into the extent to which observed levels of lifetime childlessness at the population level might result from a specific combination of intended childlessness, postponed decisions leading to involuntary childlessness, or constraints affecting individual
abilities to achieve their intentions at the individual level.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)319-350
Number of pages32
JournalEuropean Journal of Population
Issue number3
Early online date3 Feb 2017
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2017

    Research areas

  • Childlessness intentions, Italy, Britain, Gender differences

Discover related content
Find related publications, people, projects and more using interactive charts.

View graph of relations

Related by author

  1. International migration and fertility variation in Spain during the economic recession: a spatial Durbin approach

    Sabater, A. & Graham, E., Sep 2019, In : Applied Spatial Analysis and Policy. 12, 3, p. 515-546 32 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  2. Does having highly educated adult children reduce mortality risks for parents with low educational attainment in Europe?

    Sabater, A., Graham, E. & Marshall, A., 19 Jul 2019, In : Ageing & Society. First View, 36 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  3. Estimating the impacts of area regeneration programmes in Scotland on health and unemployment: a quasi-experimental approach

    Archibald, D., Feng, Z. & Graham, E., 19 Jun 2019, In : People, Place and Policy. 13, 1, p. 1-28 28 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  4. Inequalities in the transition to homeownership among young people in Scotland

    Fiori, F., Graham, E. & Feng, Z., 21 May 2019, In : Housing Studies. Latest Articles, 31 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  5. Parental migration and the educational enrolment of left-behind children: evidence from rural Ponorogo, Indonesia

    Arlini, S. M., Yeoh, B. S. A., Khoo, C. Y. & Graham, E., 20 May 2019, In : Asian Population Studies. Latest Articles

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Related by journal

  1. European Journal of Population (Journal)

    Julia Mikolai (Reviewer)
    2018 → …

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesPeer review of manuscripts

Related by journal

  1. Fertility history and physical and mental health changes in European older adults

    Keenan, K. & Grundy, E., Jul 2019, In : European Journal of Population. 35, 3, p. 459-485 27 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  2. Unpacking summary measures of ethnic residential segregation using an age group and age cohort perspective

    Sabater, A. & Catney, G., Feb 2019, In : European Journal of Population. 35, 1, p. 161-189 29 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  3. Between Flows and Places: Using Geodemographics to Explore EU Migration Across Neighbourhoods in Britain

    Sabater, A., May 2015, In : European Journal of Population. 31, 2, p. 207-230

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

ID: 246879465