During the POLPAN Seminar on May 17th Dr. Malgorzata Mikucka (MZES, Mannheim University & Centre for Demographic Research, Université catholique de Louvain) presented a paper titled ‘The costs of parenthood and parental well-being. The case of Switzerland.’ A co-author of the paper is Prof. Ester Rizzi (Centre for Demographic Research, Université catholique de Louvain).
Happiness literature shows that parenthood does not increase subjective well-being. The main explanation of this puzzling result are the costs associated with parenthood: having children does not make people happy, because the intrinsic gains of parenthood are counterbalanced by financial burdens and the lack of free time. This study investigates a less studied social context, i.e. Switzerland, to analyze how the perceived financial burdens and time constraints change over the course of parenthood. We use Swiss Household Panel data (16 waves) and fixed-effects models to study the within-person changes of financial satisfaction and satisfaction with free time experienced during parenthood. The satisfaction measures are particularly useful tools in the analysis, because they focus on the perceived, and not objective burdens, and should therefore be reflected in changes of parental life satisfaction. Our results show that financial satisfaction systematically increases during parenthood in Switzerland. The increase is especially high after the birth of the second (i.e. typically the last) child in the family, and is stronger among men than among women. In other words, financial satisfaction of parents increases faster than the financial satisfaction of otherwise similar childless people. We also show that men’s satisfaction with their free time is temporarily and negatively affected by the birth of the first child. The negative effect among women is much stronger than among men, but it is also temporary. By the time a child reaches the age of 10-12 years, women’s satisfaction with their free time is systematically higher than in the period before the birth of a child. This suggests that our understanding of the role played by the costs of parenthood for parental life satisfaction is still limited. We call for further research, especially those using other theoretical perspectives, such as the selection approach.