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A Multilevel Analysis of Child Care and Women's Fertility Decisions in Western Germany



The availability of public day care is often assumed to be crucial to the compatibility of childrearing and women's employment. This article takes a multilevel perspective in investigating the role of child care in childbearing decisions in western Germany. Using information on the local supply of public day care and data from the German Socio-Economic Panel, we estimated first and second birth risks from the 1980s and 1990s. We found that access to informal care arrangements increases the probability of entering parenthood, but we did not find any statistically significant effect of the public day care provision on fertility. This result points to shortcomings in the institutional setup of the German day care (and welfare) regime and to potentially relevant unobserved dimensions of child care.