Uncertain Corona-Times

A research on family formation and fertility decisions during the Covid-19 pandemic

Family, fertility and the Covid-19 pandemic

This research investigates the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on family life courses, especially on union formation (cohabitation and marriage) and fertility decisions.

The pandemic created an enormous uncertainty shock. Scientists have no clear answers on how the virus is spreading, how long the pandemic will last, and what the real consequences are. The possibility of losing one’s job and/or reducing the standard of living is a widespread renewed source of concern, due to an economic future that nobody can forecast, not even in the short-term.

Does the pandemic affect union formation and fertility? Can its impact be explained merely by the objective exposure to the virus and its related socioeconomic consequences, or is it better grasped by rising uncertainty about the future?

To address these questions, we follow a novel framework, the Narrative Framework (Vignoli et al. 2020). Family plans are not only an effect of past experiences and personality traits: they are imbued of future expectations and personal imaginaries that may support people in the shift from the expected course of action.

Sampling and Data

During the lockdown period, we conducted an online survey on an Italian sample of 4,000 individuals, with national quotas for gender, age, and region (Centre and South) or province (North) of residence.

The survey collected data on:

  • Fertility intentions and union formation plans prior and during the lockdown

  • Objective exposition to pandemic (direct and indirect contact with coronavirus; media exposure; labor market situation)

  • Perceptions (sense of insecurity regarding one's own health, labor market situation, couple relationship, the pandemic, and the general political and economic situation)

  • Expected length of the pandemic

  • Family imaginaries

  • Social background and personality traits

An online experiment exposed respondents to different scenarios regarding the expected end of the pandemic. We then asked again about individuals' fertility intentions and union formation plans in the light of the expected duration of the emergency.

A longitudinal follow-up is planned for September 2020.


This study has been designed by Daniele Vignoli, Giacomo Bazzani, and Raffaele Guetto - University of Florence.


If you are interested in implementing the study in other countries or if you have any questions, please contact: daniele.vignoli[AT]unifi.it, giacomo.bazzani[AT]unifi.it, raffaele.guetto[AT]unifi.it