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Does Broadband Internet Affect Fertility?

In a recent study, Francesco C. Billari, Osea Giuntella and Luca Stella analysed whether the availability of high-speed Internet influences fertility choices in Germany. The authors worked with data from the German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP). It is a unique dataset because it provides information on fertility histories, availability of Internet access, and also on whether Internet access is based on broadband (DSL) technology.

Their results show positive effects of high-speed Internet availability on the fertility of highly educated women aged 25 and above. Effects were found to not be statistically significant for men, low-educated women and those under 25. Broadband access significantly increases the share of women who said they participated in teleworking or worked part-time. High-speed Internet availability also positively affects time spent with children and overall life satisfaction.

These findings suggest that increasing access to broadband may promote fertility among highly educated women by easing the burden of balancing work and family duties. This may be particularly important in countries like Germany that have been lagging behind in terms of the share of telecommuters compared to other advanced economies. The downside of these findings is that broadband might introduce a "fertility digital divide", allowing highly educated individuals to realise their fertility goals, while not improving the chances of the low educated, who tend to be employed in less flexible occupations.