How socio-cultural factors and opportunity costs shape the transition to a third child


  • Ralina Panova Federal Insitute for Population Research
  • Isabella Buber-Ennser Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Global Human Capital (IIASA, OeAW, Univ. Vienna), Vienna Institute of Demography/Austrian Academy of Sciences
  • Martin Bujard Federal Institute for Population Research



fertility, third birth, social pressure, value of children, opportunity costs, Generations and Gender Survey


Objective: Why do parents decide to have more than two children?

Background: This study explores how opportunity costs and socio-cultural factors such as value of children, perceived social pressure and intergenerational fertility transmission influence the transition to higher order fertility in seven European countries.

Method: Using panel data for Austria, Bulgaria, France, Georgia, Hungary, Poland and Russia, stemming from the Generations and Gender Survey (GGS), we aim to identify the driving mechanisms behind the birth of a third child and draw attention to socio-cultural factors and opportunity costs. We estimate average marginal effects in binomial logistic regressions.

Results: Multivariate analyses demonstrate that lower opportunity costs and perceived social pressure positively influence the transition to the third child – for both sexes. In contrast, emotional and social values of children are not relevant and intergenerational transmission is associated with the birth of the third child for men and women differently. Perceived social pressure turns out to matter in all countries, although the social groups likely to have large families differ across countries.

Conclusion: Overall, this study provides insights into the link between socio-cultural factors, perceived cost and the formation of large families in life course, revealing the reasons why women and men may deviate from the widespread two child norm. Therefore, it brings new contribution regarding the motivation for a third child.


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How to Cite

Panova, R., Buber-Ennser, I., & Bujard, M. (2023). How socio-cultural factors and opportunity costs shape the transition to a third child. Journal of Family Research, 35, 162–180.