Are Environmental Concerns Deterring People from Having Children? Longitudinal Evidence on Births in the UK


Authors: Prof. Andrew Oswald

Ben Lockwood, Nattavudh Powdthavee and Andrew J. Oswald


Do ‘green’ environmental concerns — such as about biodiversity, climate change, pollution — deter citizens from having children? This paper reports the first longitudinal evidence consistent with that increasingly discussed hypothesis. It follows through time a random sample of thousands of initially childless men and women in the UK. Those individuals who are committed to a green lifestyle are found to be substantially less likely to go on later to have offspring (or fewer offspring). In the later analysis we adjust statistically for a large set of potential confounders. They include people’s age, education, income, marital status, mental health, life satisfaction, optimism, and physical health. Because there might also be unobservable reasons why those who are pro-environmental may be less likely to want a child, and to try to ensure that the finding cannot be explained by selection and omitted variables, the paper explores Oster’s (2019) bounds test. The paper’s final estimated effect-size is substantial. A person entirely unconcerned about environmental behaviour is estimated to be approximately 70% more likely to go on to have a child than a deeply committed environmentalist.