The Transfer Cost of Parenthood in Europe: Do Societies Tax their Own Reproduction?

Robert Ivan Gal, Marton Medgyesi, Pieter Vanhuysse*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


What are the net inter-age resource transfer burdens over the life course of working-age parents as compared to non-parents in Europe? We estimate all cash, in-kind, and time transfers of the market economy and the household economy, through both public and familial channels, for fourteen countries in the early 2000s. We advance National Transfer Accounts methodology by splitting up macro-aggregates into three groups: parents, non-parents living in childless households and non-parents cohabiting with children. Non-parents in Europe contribute almost exclusively to public transfers, somewhat more than parents do. But parents provide, in addition, a still larger amount of familial transfers. Using these period age profiles, we next estimate transfer stocks over the working life. We find that, overall, parents contribute on average 1.8 times as many net transfers as non-parents. Especially in view of the public good nature of children and contemporary rates of both fertility and intentional childlessness in an aging Europe, this asymmetric transfer burden carries multiple implications for sociological debates on population and family policies and what societies owe parents. For instance, it raises the question whether, by exploiting the inelasticity of parental demand for children, societies may be taxing their own reproduction.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAmerican Sociological Review
Publication statusSubmitted - 1. May 2021


  • public policy
  • parental investment
  • cost of children
  • human capital
  • social investment
  • equity in policy

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