Network Effects on Fertility

Content and Goals

This project aims to provide a comprehensive quantitative assessment of social interaction effects on fertility in Germany. Specifically, we ask whether fertility is “contagious” within the family, within the circle of friends, and at the workplace. These questions derive from a compelling theoretical idea that is increasingly recognized in recent research on fertility: The decision to have a child may spread across network partners through social interaction. This claim has been substantiated by a novel line of research which studies contagion effects on fertility within different domains of social interaction. Although this pioneering literature is growing steadily, it still leaves considerable gaps in knowledge about the social contagion of fertility.


We draw on the framework of analytical sociology, which offers a new lens through which to view the social contagion of fertility. Based on this framework, our project proposes a comprehensive set of studies to investigate contagion effects on fertility within different domains of social interaction. The research will use data from the German Socio-economic Panel Study (SOEP) and the German Panel Analysis of Intimate Relationships and Family Dynamics (pairfam).

Social Relevance and Use of Results

Two main research deficits stand out: First, there is a lack of rigorous tests identifying contagion effects and assessing their size in different social networks. Second, theoretical accounts of how contagion operates remain largely disconnected from the empirical analysis of its effects. This project seeks to fill these gaps.

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