The Extent of Participation of the Instruments of Social Policy on the Reproductive Behavior of People in Relation to Their Socio-Economic Status (Excerpt)

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In this article, we will explore to what extent the social state and its instruments (mainly in the Slovak social security system) influences the reproductive behavior of people in the context of their socio-economic status. We will base this comparison on rational choice theory and theory of consumer behavior.

The full text of the article is available in Slovak.


When comparing the extent of influence of the social system on reproductive behavior in model cases, we have noted the following:

1. For people living under the poverty line, or people oscillating at the border of poverty:

  • social security benefits help to achieve income on the level of life minimum;
  • the consumer needs of children in these groups are largely covered by social security benefits;
  • reproductive behavior is a legitimate way of not being active on the work market and not being penalized for it;
  • reproductive behavior represents an option of gaining a relatively high increase in income.

2. For people living stably above the poverty line and close to the average income:

  • social security benefits represent a relatively symbolical participation on the raising of dependent children;
  • the consumer needs of children in these groups considerably burdens the family budget;
  • reproductive behavior of women represents a handicap on the work market;
  • reproductive behavior means a considerable decrease in parental income and can lead to approaching the poverty line.

A clear conclusion follows from this comparison: the instruments of social policy have a markedly different influence on the reproductive behavior of people of different socio-economic statuses. Particularly paradoxical is the fact that the state is using two instruments to motivate children from families living in material need to attend school, which is compulsory anyway.

Such a setting of the social system can actually have its share on the overall resultant fertility of women, which is deeply under the replacement level.

For people living in poverty (in Slovakia it is mainly the Roma), the rational choice is coming from wholly different conditions. With low or no education, it is much harder for them to succeed in the work market – the positions they could occupy would in the conditions of Slovak economy earn less that the guaranteed sums of social security benefits. This means that lost opportunities such as lost earnings or career growth following from social occurrences connected with parenthood never come up.

Moreover, if the pair living in poverty produces more children, their expenses can remain practically the same, because everything essential is covered by the state. These sums do not have a stimulating effect to reproduce for the working population. But the economic situation of people living in poverty is not worsened by the arrival of another child. Besides this, caring for a child younger than 3 years enables one (and sometimes both) of the parents to avoid the formal work market, and have an increased income guaranteed by the state. This provides possibilities for a concurrent participation on the informal work market.

Another factor is that the people living in poverty usually "mature" into adulthood in younger age and become "independent", in contrast with the working population, where not only high school, but also college is becoming the norm. Children from these families tend to retain the dependent status for much longer, thus increasing the parental expenses.

In the context of Slovak social policy, the thesis presented by Murray (1998) in USA was confirmed: "rational" behavior is different at different economical levels.


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