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The Low Fertility Trap Hypothesis. Forces that May Lead to Further Postponement and Fewer Births in Europe

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This paper starts from the assessment that there is no good theory in the social sciences that would tell us whether fertility in low-fertility countries is likely to recover in the future, stay around its current level or continue to fall. This question is key to the discussion whether or not governments should take action aimed at influencing the fertility rate. To enhance the scholarly discussion in this field, the paper introduces a clearly defined hypothesis which describes plausible self-reinforcing mechanisms that would result, if unchecked, in a continued decrease of the number of births in the countries affected. This hypothesis has three components: a demographic one based on the negative population growth momentum, i.e., the fact that fewer potential mothers in the future will result in fewer births; a sociological one based on the assumption that ideal family size for the younger cohorts is declining as a consequence of the lower actual fertility they see in previous cohorts; and an economic one based on the first part of Easterlin’s (1980) relative income hypothesis, namely, that fertility results from the combination of aspirations and expected income, and assuming that aspirations of young adults are on an increasing trajectory while the expected income for the younger cohorts declines, partly as a consequence of population ageing induced by low fertility. All three factors would work towards a downward spiral in births in the future. If there is reason to assume that such mechanisms will indeed be at work, then this should strengthen the motivation of governments to take immediate action (possibly through policies addressing the tempo effect) in order to still escape from the expected trap.
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... W Polsce może nastąpić sytuacja nazywana przez badaczy "pułapką niskiej płodności" (Lutz, Skirbekk, Testa 2005). Występowanie przez dwie, trzy dekady niskiej dzietności prowadzi do starzenia się społeczeństwa i coraz mniejszego przyrostu naturalnego. ...
... Osoby mające liczne rodzeństwo są bardziej skłonne do posiadania większej liczby dzieci niż osoby będące jedynakami. Wszystkie trzy czynniki przez wzajemne oddziaływanie na siebie powodują w rezultacie niższą płodność (Lutz, Skirbekk, Testa 2005). Dodatkowym czynnikiem, przez niektórych uważanym za najważniejszy, jest czynnik socjologiczny, polegający na utrwaleniu się wzorca rodziny z mniejszą liczbą dzieci. ...
... Istniejące badania prowadzone przez demografów potwierdzają, że wydarzenia z przeszłości i rodzina pochodzenia mają wpływ na planowaną w przyszłości liczbę dzieci i realizację tych planów (Lutz, Skirbekk, Testa 2005; Johnson-Hanks, Bachrach, Morgan, Kohler 2011: 37-39, 63;Wusu, Isiugo-Abanihe 2006). ...
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At the beginning of the twenty-first century, in the post-industrial period a fertility decline became a growing social problem in the Euro-Atlantic cultural sphere. In the mid-term horizon, demographers have said this will lead to depopulation in most European countries and all of Europe. Apart from the migration of young people from different cultures, a population decrease can be stopped by the increase of birth rate. This process can take place by increasing the number of families with many children in postindustrial societies. Researchers who study demographic shifts claim that families with a minimum of 4 children are needed to replace a full generation, but to rejuvenate a population, families of 4+ are necessary. Various studies across different disciplines are being undertaken to better understand the causes of low birth rates; however, since families with one or two children or no children at all constitute the majority of families in European countries, the perspective of such families dominates current research. As a result, the causes of higher reproductive rates in families with multiple children are unknown. This research aims to help fill this knowledge gap, especially by focusing attention on families with multiple children in countries with low birth rates, which has not been given due consideration in current Polish and international sociological literature. This conceptualization of the issue results from the author’s own experiences and is based in theories of new institutionalism developed in Anthropology and Sociology. A sociological approach to the issue moves away from Bronisław Malinowski’s model of the procreative institution, which meets the social reproductive needs and includes the following institutions: courting, marriage, family, clan, society. Malinowski viewed the procreative institution as universal, existing in all societies in order to support the goal of reproduction of the group. Building on this concept of the procreative institution, this research presents reproduction in the context of the history of the Euro-Atlantic sphere and contemporary post-industrial societies. This research focuses on a specific segment of Polish society: families with multiple children in which the mother has a higher education. This focus is in response to the claim that higher education rates characterize both contemporary post-industrial societies and a lower birth rate, which suggests an interrelatedness between different spheres of social life, broadly understood. Qualitative methods were employed in this research on the conditions that impact on reproductive rates, which enabled attention to complex, interrelated issues that inform family decisions about procreation. In-depth interviews were the main research tool, which was supported by an analysis of the situation of the families with multiple children included in the sample and participant observation in the place of residence of those families. The interviews and observations were carried out in two phases – in 2013 and 2017 – which allows this study to note the impact of family-oriented policies that aim to support demographic growth and that were introduced after the first phase of the study. Overall, 40 interviews were collected with mothers and fathers in families with multiple children. The informants constitute a diverse sample in terms of income and the age of the mother. The sample includes families in which the mother can still bear children as well as families in which the mothers have passed reproductive age. The analysis shows that having multiple children was a matter of conscious choice made by the married couples, above all, in accordance with the mindset/ believes and attitudes they had developed through their own family up-bringing and through the youth groups they were affiliated with as young people themselves. Their believes and attitudes related to families with multiple children, marriage, reproduction, and upbringing influence their willingness to have multiple children. This study found that the norms and informal rules that constitute social expectations, both in the immediate community and in the broader society, as well as the parents’ exposure to family models, significantly influence the decision to either limit or to continue with reproduction in the case of 3+ children. Forming families with multiple children depends on both formal and informal norms and rules that make up the social system and the mental models of the informants, which give them a sense of subjective perceived control. These factors include: the relations in the married couple, the family planning methods that are used, the mothers’ health during pregnancy and birth, the child-care and child-rearing practices, the professional life of the parents, as well as the housing and financial situation of the family. Moreover, moral and religious rules influence families with multiple children. A diachronic analysis of the families in the sample allowed the definition of five strategies used by couples who form families with multiple children: a general openness to having children, an analysis of desires and possibilities, a situational openness, planning, an excitement for reproduction. All the families taking part in the study claimed to be happy or very happy. This study also enabled an indication of directions for future research, for example: links between families with multiple children and care, the professional engagement of the parents, social norms about family size, contraception and family planning methods. The study was based in a small sample size, which further underlines the need for further research. This study can serve to orient future investigations. This research raised a key question about the conditions that must be secured in contemporary post-industrial societies, both by future parents and the broader cultural context, in order for future generations to be regenerated. Such studies should be undertaken in the field of sociology and it might be worth considering defining a separate subfield of the sociology of procreation. These studies should focus on the social conditions and factors that influence procreation as a social activity, and in the field of new institutionalism, reproduction as dependent on institutions on different levels of society. Procreation is not just a private issue of the married couple, but an activity that is socially influenced, as this study has shown.
... Throughout the analyzed period, despite the introduction of financial support for families with children, the level of fertility in both German federal states and Polish regions was significantly below the replacement rate of 2,1 . The authors of the study published by the Vienna Institute of Demography (Lutz, Skirbekk, and Testa 2006) draw attention to the ensuing demographic threat . In their view, the longer the fertility rate will remain at such a low level, it will be less likely to increase this in the future in the absence of an influx of immigrants . ...
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The aim of this article is to compare demographic processes in German federal states and Polish voivodships. The analysis covers the period between 2004–2015 and takes into account the data published by Eurostat, the Federal Statistical Office and Poland’s Central Statistical Office. The analysis shows that demographic processes in German Länder are more dependent on their level of development and geographic location than in Polish regions. In Germany, the major demographic problems are seen in the less developed eastern Länder, whereas in Poland, unfavorable demographic changes occur in several voivodships of varying levels of development, located in different parts of the country. According to the author, in the case of demographic processes, unlike economic processes, at present there is no justification for clear-cut division of Eastern Poland, akin to Eastern Germany.
... Studies that look at the macroeconomic effects of childcare transfers find positive long run economic growth and welfare gains, particularly when combined with public pension reform (Okamoto, 2020;Oguro et al., 2011). Guner et al. (2020) also examine the macroeconomic outcomes of transfers to households with children in a life-cycle model 4 See Lutz et al. (2006) for a discussion on low-fertility traps. 5 Family benefits refer to child-related cash transfers and allowances, tax exemptions and benefits in kind such as public spending on childcare and early education. ...
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In this paper we study how population aging impacts the age distribution of the voting electorate and voters' choices over childcare subsidies. We build a computable general equilibrium framework populated by heterogeneous agents who, over the course of their life-cycle, make endogenous and age-dependent fertility choices. The model is calibrated to match economic and population outcomes of the Italian economy. Child support favors young and fertile cohorts but can also impact all population subgroups through changes in prices, income taxation and population growth. A probabilistic voting model is used to measure voting outcomes over a range of childcare subsidy levels and tax policies. Our findings show that childcare subsidies have a positive impact on the total fertility rate and are welfare improving when financed with both capital and labor income taxation and in combination with lower pension contribution rates. A 10 percent increase in the level of subsidies can increase the population growth rate by an average of 0.47-0.70 percentage points. We find that voting choices of different population subgroups, while depending on the tax used to finance new expenditure, lead to lower levels of childcare subsidies, lower fertility rates and to a demographic 'trap'.
... On the contrary, in some countries with very low fertility, further advancement of the SDT might indeed have a beneficial effect on fertility rates as it will broaden the choice of generally accepted pathways to have children and lift some obstacles to childbearing. This effect may be partly counterbalanced by declining fertility preferences in countries that have experienced a prolonged period of very low fertility (Lutz, Skirbekk and Testa 2006). European regions will almost certainly continue to experience divergent pathways in their fertility, migration and population trends. ...
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This contribution argues that the occasionally predicted spiral of declining number of births and declining population size is not an inevitable future of European population, especially when the European Union as a whole is considered. While some regions are likely to experience considerable and long-lasting population decline, other regions may see continuing population increase, extended well beyond the mid- 21st century. A slight increase in fertility combined with relatively high immigration may be the major factors to bring about such developments.
... In 2006, Lutz et al. (2006) advanced the hypothesis of a low-fertility trap, which postulated that when a country reaches ultra-low levels of fertility, way under replacement level, some mechanisms might prevent the fertility to go up again. The first mechanism has to do with the negative momentum of population growth, and the fact that in those low-fertility countries there are fewer and fewer women of reproductive age in the population. ...
Chapter
While the link between better health, on the one hand, and lower fertility and higher educational attainment levels, on the other, has been well established, the critical impact of education achievements on population trends and structure is often overlooked at the policy level. This chapter first describes how education programs and policies that were instituted as part of international development programs, particularly for young women, have contributed to decrease total fertility rates in low- and middle-income countries. Next, the chapter discusses current trends in education in international development programs and how they will affect fertility trends in the coming decades. Thereafter, the chapter looks at higher-income economies, like Japan or South Korea, where the population has declined along with the attainment of higher levels of educational (a phenomenon often related to the high cost of higher education). Along those lines, the chapter examines education policies that have been enacted to counteract the impacts of reduced fertility rates.
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The gathering storm – the creation of an Infertility TrapWhile previous publications have looked at individual aspects of the issues shaping our population size, the reality is that many different factors are working together to drive human fertility into a cul-de-sac of its own making. From a social perspective many young people, particularly young, educated women, do not feel that life’s purpose necessarily involves the creation of a family. As fertility rates fall, this lack of interest in procreation will be reinforced by the economic pressures placed on a dwindling workforce to achieve the productivity needed to support the swelling ranks of elderly citizens. We shall not be able to turn to immigration to solve this problem because the fall in fertility rates is global and the barriers to international movement put up by COVID will persist for some time to come. Affluent societies are also characterized by lifestyles, diets and levels of environmental pollution that negatively impact reproductive health. These features, when coupled with the lack of selection pressure on high fertility in modern industrialized societies, and the ability of ART to encourage poor fertility genotypes to remain within the population, will combine to drive fertility down to historically low levels.
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A család tanulmányozása korábban sokak számára az egyik legunalmasabb vállalkozásnak tűnhetett, most viszont az egyik legprovokatívabb témaválasztás. – Akár azt is gondolhatnánk, hogy ez a felvetés könyvünk 2021-es írása idején született, pedig Anthony Giddens angol szociológus 1980-as évekbeli Társadalomelmélet és modern szociológia című munkájában szerepel (Giddens 1987: 23). Ez nemcsak azt mutatja, hogy a családszociológia tárgya már évtizedekkel ezelőtt is vitákat kavart, hanem azt is, hogy a családszociológiai témák és a családformák bizony változékonyak.
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Οι τελευταίες δεκαετίες σηματοδότησαν σημαντικές αλλαγές στα πληθυσμιακά μας δρώμενα. Η μαζική εισροή οικονομικών μεταναστών της περιόδου 1990-2000 περιορίσθηκε αισθητά, ενώ νέα μεταναστευτικά ρεύματα αναδύονται (προσφυγική κρίση, μετανάστευση νέων σε αναζήτηση εργασίας σε άλλες χώρες). Η εσωτερική μετανάστευση ατονεί, ενώ αντιθέτως η χωρίς αλλαγή της μόνιμης κατοικίας συνδεδεμένη με την εργασία κινητικότητα αυξάνεται και ταυτόχρονα τάσεις απο-αστικοποίησης αναδύονται, και, πιθανότατα εντείνονται στη διάρκεια της οικονομικής κρίσης. Αυξάνεται σε σχέση με το παρελθόν επαγωγή των μεταναστευτικών εισροών εθνο-πολιτισμική σύνθεση του πληθυσμού μας, ιδιαίτερα των δυο μητροπολιτικών περιοχών της χώρας μας, ενώ ταυτόχρονα οι δραστηριότητες των οικονομικών μεταναστών διευρύνονται. Οι πρόσφατες προσφυγικές ροές έχουν σημαντικές επιπτώσεις στην καθημερινότητα των τόπων υποδοχής ενώ η εγκατάσταση στη χώρα μας νέων αλλοδαπών μετά το 1990 επιβραδύνει, χωρίς όμως να ανακόπτει, τη δημογραφική γήρανση του πληθυσμού μας. Ταυτόχρονα, η «γήρανση μέσα στη γήρανση» επιταχύνεται καθώς το πλήθος και το ειδικό βάρος όσων έχουν ξεπεράσει το μέσο όρο ζωής (τα 80 έτη) αυξάνεται πολύ ταχύτερα από αυτό των 65 ετών και άνω και η αναπαραγωγή του πληθυσμού μας μας προβληματίζει όλο και περισσότερο καθώς γεννήσεις και γονιμότητα συρρικνώνονται συνεχώς, ενώ ταυτόχρονα οι ρυθμοί της αύξησης της προσδοκώμενης ζωής μας επιβραδύνονται προοδευτικά. Η εξέταση της χωρικής διάστασης των προαναφερθεισών σημαντικών πληθυσμιακών αλλαγών σε εθνικό επίπεδο συγκεντρώνει στη χώρα μας, σε αντίθεση με το παρελθόν, όλο και μεγαλύτερο ενδιαφέρον καθώς έχει συνειδητοποιηθεί πλέον η αναγκαιότητα διερεύνησης των διαφοροποιήσεων που υποκρύπτονται συχνότατα κάτω από τους εθνικούς μέσους όρους. Ταυτόχρονα, όλο και περισσότερο, αναδεικνύεται και η αναγκαιότητα της μη μονο-επιστημονικής προσέγγισης στη μελέτη των αλλαγών αυτών. Τα άρθρα που περιλαμβάνονται στο θεματικό αυτό τεύχος, σε μικρότερο ή μεγαλύτερο βαθμό, πληρούν τις δυο αυτές προϋποθέσεις. Το τεύχος συγκεντρώνει κείμενα ερευνητών οι οποίοι, από διαφορετικές οπτικές γωνιές εξετάζουν κυρίως θέματα που άπτονται της κινητικότητας στο εσωτερικό της χώρας μας («Η επιστροφή στην Ύπαιθρο στην Ελλάδα μετά το 2000», «Η καθημερινή κινητικότητα των απασχολούμενων στην Ελλάδα»), των δυο διαδοχικών μεταναστευτικών ρευμάτων («Η οικονομική και επιχειρηματική δραστηριότητα των μεταναστών στην περιοχή της Αττικής» , «Μεταναστευτικές και Προσφυγικές Ροές στην Λέσβο»), των πρόσφατων εξελίξεων της αναπαραγωγής του πληθυσμού μας («Η συγχρονική γονιμότητα στην Ελλάδα κατά τα πρώτα χρόνια του 21ου αιώνα»), ή ακόμη της γήρανσης μέσα στη γήρανση («Η εξέλιξη των τύπων διαβίωσης των ηλικιωμένων 80 ετών και άνω στην Ελλάδα»). Δυο άρθρα διαφοροποιούνται εν μέρει της πρότερης θεματολογίας. Το πρώτο («Μετανάστευση και Εθνοπολιτισμική «Ποικιλότητα» των Ευρωπαϊκών Πόλεων» αμφισβητεί την εγκυρότητα της θέσης ότι η Εθνοπολιτισμική «Ποικιλότητα» των ευρωπαϊκών πόλεων σήμερα είναι πιο σημαντική από ποτέ, ενώ το δεύτερο («Γεωγραφία των Κόμβων και Πληθυσμός») παρουσιάζει έναν εναλλακτικό τρόπο μοντελοποίησης του χώρου διερευνώντας - μεταξύ άλλων -, τις δυνατότητες εκτίμησης του πληθυσμού και της κατανομής του στην Ελλάδα με την χρήση των Γεωγραφικών Συστημάτων Πληροφοριών . Ως επιμελητές θα θέλαμε τέλος να ευχαριστήσουμε όλους όσους συνέβαλαν στο τεύχος αυτό και ιδιαίτερα τους συγγραφείς και τους κριτές των κειμένων που συμπεριλαμβάνει
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