If a woman at a workplace becomes pregnant, the chance of other colleagues becoming pregnant within 13 to 24 months increases by 10 percent, according to the study of birth patterns by Uppsala University researchers Lena Hensvik and Peter Nilsson.
A common explanation for variations in birthrates is the economic cycle, with more children born in upswings and fewer during recession. But changes occur so fast that the researchers sought further explanations, and they argue that their findings support the contention that the contagion effect is one of them.
“A great many things affect the timing of having children, with the most important being discussions within the family. The actions of people in their surroundings also constitute an important factor,” Peter Nilsson told news agency TT.
Education is also found to be a factor affecting the decision to have children, with some groups more inspiring than others.
Women with lower levels of education are influenced by colleagues with both higher and equivalent levels, while more highly educated women are not affected by those with lesser qualifications. This group is however influenced by female colleagues holding equivalent levels of education.
Expectant fathers were found to have no effect on females in the workplace. A future study will look at whether there is a contagion effect between male colleagues.
The Hensvik/Nilsson study was based on information from 150,000 women employed at Swedish workplaces with fewer that 50 staff from 1997-2004.