- Paperback: 256 pages
- Publisher: Routledge; 1 edition (January 1, 2014)
- Language: English
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- ISBN-13: 978-1612050942
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Whither the Child?: Causes and Consequences of Low Fertility 1st Edition
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Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
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About the Author
Eric Kaufmann is Reader in Politics at Birkbeck College, University of London, and author of Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth (Profile 2010).
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Introduction - Eric Kaufmann and W. Bradford Wilcox
“In the last four decades, birth rates have fallen dramatically throughout the world. Europe and East Asia lead the way, with fertility rates well below the replacement level of 2.1. The economic, technological, and social sources of the Demographic Transition toward smaller families, which began in the late eighteenth century, are well understood (Coale and Watkins 1986). However, more recently, the so-called Second Demographic Transition (SDT) has come to the fore. Characterized by below-replacement fertility and based more on cultural than material shifts, it demands further exploration (Surkyn and Lesthaeghe 2004). This book arises out of an Experts Meeting in 2010, “Whither the Child? Causes, Consequences, and Responses to Low Fertility," sponsored by the Social Trends Institute in Barcelona, Spain. which was designed to do precisely that. The book brings together leading demographers and social scientists and asks how changing gender roles, religious values, belief systems, and family norms affect fertility. But beyond traditional demographic approaches that probe the causes of fertility change, this work turns the question on its head to ask how demography affects individuals and society. What does it feel like to live in a low-fertility world? What exactly are the consequences of falling fertility rates and aging populations—for children, adults, communities, nation-states, and religions? What have individuals, policymakers, and politicians done to address the problem? Is there even a problem—economically, culturally, and morally? No other book encapsulates so many dimensions of the low-fertility issue and none engage with the thorny issues of child psychology, parenting, family, and social policy that we tackle head-on here. Throughout, this book turns on several key debates. Are cultural or economic forces driving low fertility? Are liberal or communitarian values the answer? Should we aim for a fertility increase or learn to live with decline? Some of the pressing questions that our contributors—leaders in their fields—address include the following: * Is fertility decline caused by a loss of religious faith and a diminishing hope for the future in modem societies? * Are patriarchal family norms and traditional gender roles contributing to low fertility? * What are the social and emotional consequences of being an "only child'? * How do children influence the emotional and spiritual lives of adults? * Does parenthood affect the extent to which adults engage with society? * Is low fertility linked to a rising secularism, permitting orthodox religions to eclipse moderate faiths and nonreligion through their comparative fertility advantage? * If low fertility—or at least the lowest low fertility" found in much of Europe and East Asia—can be viewed as a social problem, how should governments respond? * What is the optimum level of fertility in society? Might we be better off with a declining population?” (vii-ix); “The common thread running through all the papers is that our new low-fertility environment is a product of society and has consequences for all aspects of our individual and collective lives. Beyond that, however, our authors offer no unitary explanations. Few deny the importance of changing women's roles and the erosion of religious traditionalism in lowering fertility. Equally, few contest the idea that aspects of economic structure - some of which may be amenable to policy interventions - can enable or inhibit fertility gains. The same broad consensus holds for the consequences of low fertility: lower fertility does enable greater investment in children's health and education, but this may also carry certain costs in terms of children's emotional lives and parents' civic engagement. At the level of society, lower fertility enables greater development of human resources, but this must be balanced against the costs associated with a higher proportion of elderly dependents and the possibility that population decline will threaten the viability of nation-states and cultures. These are, however, broad parameters within which our commentators are far from united. Differences of opinion often stem from contrasting normative concerns. Some approach their subject from a communitarian standpoint, urging an end to below-replacement fertility and a revaluation of traditional motherhood, religion, and family norms. Others are feminist egalitarians. For them, patriarchal gender roles, proscriptions on out-of-wedlock births, insufficient support for working mothers, and inflexible workplaces prevent women from realizing their desired fertility. Finally, a minority are individualists who remain agnostic about the need to raise fertility rates, arguing instead for whatever policies best maximize the self-interests of society's individuals. Some combine several of these political philosophies. As the developing world follows the wealthy global North into a low-fertility future, the concerns elucidated in this book will only grow in relevance.” (xii-xiii)
1. Fertility, Feminism, and Faith: The Influence of Secularism and Economic Conditions - Alicia Adsera
“Fertility rates in developed countries have fallen to previously unseen levels. Within that general downward trend, fertility has varied significantly across countries, plummeting to 1.3 or less in southern European countries, Germany, and Austria—to what some refer to as "lowest-low” fertility levels (Kohler et al. 2002). Conversely, fertility has remained comparatively high, though still below the replacement rate, in Anglo-Saxon and Nordic countries where norms of intra-household equality are more widespread. At the same time, Western societies have undergone differential processes of secularization—though its extent is subject to heated academic debate (Bumpass 1990; Lesthaeghe and Moors 1996; Voas 2009). Contemporaneous with the decrease in fertility and with ''secularization," labor markets in developed countries have been transformed by rising female labor force participation and economic uncertainty. Periods of high and persistent unemployment since the late 1980s as well as an upward trend in the share of temporary employment characterize many countries within the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD, the focus of this chapter), notably those in Europe (Adsera 2004, 2005, 2011). There is no unique answer to the question of what explains those sharp reductions in family size…Figure 1.1 presents data on total fertility rates across a subset of OECD countries from the mid-1960s into 2003. Beginning at levels close to 3 children per woman, all these countries underwent a dramatic transformation, particularly those in southern Europe. In Italy and Spain, for example, fertility dropped later than in northern Europe, but reached levels close to 1.1 children per woman by the late 1990s. Fertility rates in the US and Nordic countries stabilized at relatively higher levels close to (or slightly below) the replacement level of 2.1 children per woman. Changes in the preferences of couples toward smaller families, larger investments per child, and dual careers help explain the general decrease in fertility across developed countries (Becker 1981; Butz and Ward 1979, 1980; Galor and Weil 1996). The widespread access to family planning in OECD countries made those changes possible (Goldin and Katz 2002). Furthermore, part of the decrease in fertility can be attributed to the delay in motherhood. When women postpone having their first child, they may be unable to bear even their (lower) desired number of children (Morgan 2003). That said, the differing extent to which women postpone their fertility only provides part of the explanation for the observed variation in fertility levels across countries (Sobotka 2004). Of greater importance is that differences in the number of children that women say they desire only account for a small portion of the actual variation in fertility levels between European countries (Bongaarts 2002; Goldstein et al. 2003). Fahey and Speder (2004) show how in Europe the gap between the number of children women state they want and the total number of children they actually have has started to move from negative into positive, meaning that many women do not attain their desired fertility.” (2-3); “Rapid secularization in many countries has been associated with the adoption of patterns of behavior often described as the “second demographic transition.” These include increases in the age at marriage and at first birth together with increases in extramarital childbearing and cohabitation (Van de Kaa 1987, 2004). At the core of these changes are an accentuation of individual autonomy, rapid secularization (defined as a reduction in religious practice), the abandonment of traditional religious beliefs, and a decline in religious sentiment (Lesthaeghe and Surkyn 1988; Bumpass 1990; Lesthaeghe and Moors 1996). This transformation, which had already become widespread in northern and western Europe, has become increasingly apparent in southern Europe since the mid-1980s. It was probably boosted by the massive entrance of women into the labor market and by information flowing from neighboring countries (Becker and Murphy 2001; Surkyn and Lesthaeghe 2004). A similar trend was noted with religious practice: in those countries where it used to be higher, we observe a rapid decline in attendance. Still, the degree of secularization of Western countries has been the subject of a heated debate (Stark 1999; Bruce 2001; Von and Crockett 2005; Von 2009), and religiosity seems to continue to influence individuals' demographic choices (Von 2007)…Thus membership in a religious group is assumed to be associated with a desire for larger families. In modern societies, individuals without a religious affiliation display different demographic behavior. In data from the European Values Surveys, for instance, individuals with lower levels of adherence to institutional religion prefer fewer children and are less likely to live in traditional families (Lesthaeghe and Surkyn 1988; Rumpus 1990; Surkyn and Lesthaeghe 2004). Unaffiliated women have fewer children than any other group in the US (Mother et al. 1992; Lehrer 1996). Conversely, affiliated Individuals, particularly those belonging to a denomination with strong pro-natalist teachings, prefer larger families than those without religion.” (4-5); religious practices and beliefs play a lesser role on men and a greater role on women in terms of behaviors; “Similarly, I have examined the distinct fluctuations in unemployment rates across OECD countries during the 1980s and the 1990s and differences in countries’ labor markets arrangements to show how they affect fertility (Adsera 2004, 2005, 2011). Since the mid-1980s countries with highly segmented markets and persistently high unemployment have had significantly lower fertility. This relationship holds even in the presence of family-friendly government policies, and it is obtained regardless of which measures of unemployment are used – total unemployment, male or female unemployment, youth unemployment or long-term unemployment (the proportion of jobless who have been out of work for more than one year), and so on.” (15-16); women have children earlier in countries that have generous maternity leave and family programs
2. The Social and Civic Consequences of Parenthood for Adults - David J. Eggebeen
Fertility rates for some countries (US – 2.1, Norway – 1.9, Sweden – 1.85, Netherlands – 1.73, Russia – 1.31); there is a correlation that countries with higher volunteering by parents also have higher fertility rates; when children are infants, parents are not able to volunteer as much; parenthood may lead to more social engagement since parents get involved with their children’s networks and also with others in their community; “Marital status may also moderate the relationship between parenthood and civic involvement. Studies show that married couples tend to be more involved in their communities and single adults (Wilson 2000). It is plausible, however, that the positive draw of parenthood into community life is strongest for those who are married. Married couples have more resources – time and money – than single parents to take on added demands of civic participation. There is also some evidence that civic involvement, especially volunteering, is mutually reinforced within couples (Rotolo and Wilson 2006). Finally, at least in the United States, there is some evidence that cohabiting couples tend to be more socially isolated than married couples (Eggebeen 2005). All these factors suggest that we might expect to find that the positive effects of parenthood on civic engagement are only likely to be evident for those who are married.” (35); examines variables on parenthood and civic engagement in 5 countries which are culturally diverse: Britain, Spain, Sweden, Poland and the US; “In summary, there is only weak and scattered evidence that parenthood is matters for the nature and extent of adults’ overall involvement in volunteer organizations. In contrast to the relatively weak effects of parenthood are the effects for education and regular church attendance. Across all five countries, higher education and regular church attendance are strongly associated with higher levels of civic involvement. Given the moderate correlation between marital status and church attendance, I tested models without controlling for church attendance. The results remained substantially the same. Finally, there is some evidence that parenthood does matter for involvement in specific kinds of volunteer organizations, - at least in some countries (Table 2.3).” (40); it is known that religiosity positively affects people to engage in church related activities and organizations and this does spill over to other community activities and organizations, but since the sample of people who regularly attend church was very low in 3 of the 5 countries studied, the effects were less powerful since these low attendance countries carried the trend
3. Do Children Bring Happiness and Purpose in Life? - Hans-Peter Kohler
“Conventional wisdom arguably suggests that parenting is satisfying for parents: individuals in early to mid-adulthood often claim to look forward to entering parenthood and having children. Even in contexts of highly developed societies where childbearing has become financially expensive and is associated often with considerable trade-offs in terms of professional careers and pursuing other goals in life, childbearing has remained an important aspect of most adult lives. An overwhelming majority of high school seniors in the US, for example, believe that motherhood and fatherhood will be fulfilling, and this number increased throughout the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s (Thornton and Young-DeMarco 2001). Mothers also report intense emotions evoked by their children (Preston and Hartnett 2008), and parents often feel "madly in love” with their children and report high levels of agreement with statements such as “I have an overwhelming love for my children unlike anything I feel for anyone else” (Erickson and Aird 2005.” (47-48); though there is a correlation between higher development and low fertility in countries, it can be reversed to become a J-shaped plot; two theories on happiness and fertility are prominent: 1) economic theory (individuals engage in partnerships and having children because their utility increases their happiness) and 2) “setpoint theory” (happiness is primarily determined by personality traits and other genetic factors and is highly stable over a lifetime irrespective of major events that occur in one’s life); according to some evolutionary models, the motivations for having children in contemporary societies include biological predispositions, social coercion, and rational choice; according to some evolutionary views, people evolved traits to nurture things and to have sexual relations, not necessarily to have children per se; men and women have different relations to reproduction: men seek sexual access and the ability to sire children while women seek support for having children (which is why youth and ability to reproduce is associated with increased value on women and social status and wealth are associated with increased value on men; women invest more time in nurturing children than men and can become prisoners of love where men can exploit maternal propensities; “Despite the strong evolutionary arguments linking the motivation for children and partnerships to evolved preferences and associated levels of subjective well-being, with possibly important differences across gender, studies of the contribution of children and partnerships to happiness are few. For instance, several studies on subjective well-being—including some by a leading economic demographer - often do not address the contributions of fertility to well-being in detail (e.g., Argyle 2001; Diener et al. 1999 ; Easterfin 2001, 2003; Kahneman et a1.1999; Layard 2005; Myers 1993). Exceptions include McLanahan and Adams (1987) who conclude that adults with children at home often report lower levels of happiness and life satisfaction than other groups, and these reports of lower happiness are associated with increased worries and higher levels of anxiety and depression. In a similar vein, Nomaguchi and Milkie (2003) find that becoming a parent is both detrimental and rewarding; unmarried parents tend to report lower self-efficacy and higher depression than their childless counterparts; and married mothers' lives are marked by more housework and more marital conflict but less depression than their childless counterparts. Angeles (2009) documents an effect of children on life satisfaction that is positive, large, and increasing in the number of children. This effect in Angeles (2009), however, is contingent on individual characteristics, with children making married people better off, while most unmarried individuals appear to be worse off with children. Aassve et al. (2008) and Margolis and Myrskyla (2011) also document important country differences in the association between happiness and childbearing, and particularly point to the fact that the association between fertility and happiness is strongest in social democratic countries. Hakim (2003) also reports findings that women's general happiness and satisfaction with life display a U-shaped trend among people who have children. Contrary to the popular stereotype, Hakim concludes from these studies, children seem to seriously depress satisfaction levels in the middle years of marriage; marital satisfaction seems to decline from the time the children are born up to the teenage years, then rises again to former levels after children leave home. Consistent with this observation, Margolis and Myrskyla (2011) find that the negative association between happiness and number of children decreases with age, and changes to positive above 40, suggesting that small children may have a negative effect on well-being, but as children row older, the positive aspects of parenthood dominate. In contrast to the effects of children on women’s satisfaction levels, parental status has been found have little influence on the lives of married men (Nomaguchi and Milkie 2003). Some of the results, however, change once unobserved factors are taken into account. Clarke and Oswald (2002), for instance find that children are not associated with well-being in longitudinal analyses with controls for individual longitudinal fixed effects, except for third or higher-order children that have a negative effect. Using longitudinal data, Clark et al. (2008), moreover, show that the anticipation of a birth in the near future leads to increases in subjective well-being for women (but not for men), and effect that turns negative two to three years after the birth of the child. Clark et al. (2008) thus summarize their findings as “the birth of a child provides a larger satisfaction boost to women than to men when it happens but four years later both sexes are equally unhappy.” No data on the long-term effects of children on well-being are available in this study. Stanca (2009) argues that the negative effect of parenthood on well-being is explained by a large adverse impact on financial satisfaction, which on average dominates the positive impact on non-financial satisfaction. Powdthavee (2009) speculates if current and prospective parents accept a “comfortable illusion” because of necessity to cope with the difficulties of childbearing, the findings of negative effect of having children on happiness “are, or course, extremely depressing. Yet perhaps they represent something we know deep down to be true: Raising children is probably the toughest and dullest job in the world. But what if we do not give into this comfortable illusion? What is all of us decided one day – for the sake of our own personal happiness – not to have children anymore? Then chances are that the future will stop at our generation, which is perhaps worse beyond our comprehension.”” (53-54); biological children make parents happier than adopted children; having children helps the subjective well-being of the elderly; across nations, “In summary, the review of the literature provides a mixed picture about the relationship of having children with subjective well-being. While parents report being in love with their children and perceiving children as extremely valuable in their lives, studies of happiness and children often find small or even no effect of having children on subjective well-being. If positive associations between well-being and fertility exist, they have mostly been shown for first children—or the entry into parenthood—while for second and higher-order children the associations with happiness that have been documented in the literature are at best mixed.” (56); “In summary, the above analyses based on Billari and Kohler (2009) suggest that, in the low fertility context studied prevailing in Bulgaria, France, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, and Russia, predicted happiness from having a(nother) child is generally positive, but it diminishes with the number of children an individual already has, with important differences across countries, following a pattern that approximately mirrors observed parity progression ratios in these countries. Second, the anticipated changes in subjective well-being from having a first birth approximately follow the observed age pattern of fertility in all countries. Hence, consistent with the conventional wisdom about parenthood discussed in the introduction of this chapter, entering parenthood in the low fertility countries included in the analyses, is perceived as providing increases in subjective well-being on average, and these expected gains in happiness are particularly pronounced if birth of the first child occurs at the “right age,” which in the countries studied here is often in the late twenties and early thirties.” (59-60) see Figure 3.1 on how the highest gains in happiness for both men and women is with the first child then diminishes after that for each additional child; people with high emotionality had a lower probability of having children whereas men who are highly sociable and active tend to have a higher probability; in terms of partnerships, men with a “happy personality” have more partnerships and have a larger number of children whereas women between 25 and 45 with a “happy personality” have a larger number of children and increase partnership stability, not increase in number pf partnerships; “In summary, these additional results reveal a striking male-female difference with respect to the impact of children on well-being after controlling for the current partnership. Females ages twenty-five to forty-five derive happiness gains from children even after controlling for the current partnership status. The happiness of males, however, depends primarily on the partnership status; once the current partnership status is controlled, men’s happiness does not vary systematically with fertility. These findings suggest a somewhat provocative interpretation about the motivations of men and women to engage in partnerships: in particular, the results can be interpreted to suggest that women are in partnerships, among other reasons, in order to have children that increase their subjective well-being. Males in the same age range, on the other hand, have children in order to remain in the partnerships that strongly affect their happiness. The male preference for boys may in this context be the result of the higher divorce probabilities of couples who have a first-born daughter as compared to a first-born son (Dahl and Moretti 2004; Morgan et al. 1988). Additional analyses in Kohler et al. (2005) also investigate the effects of having had children and partnerships on well-being at post-reproductive years at ages fifty to seventy. One of the important findings of these analyses is that the effects of having had children on subjective well-being are relatively low – if they exist at all – for men and women at this age range. The number of children does not have a large or significant effect, nor is there a strong positive effect due to “at least one child.” If the current partnership is included, a current partner is strongly associated with increases in subjective well-being, while the number of children does not affect happiness at ages fifty to seventy. These findings are surprising because children are often thought to be a source of social contacts and support at older ages. The results, however, suggest that the effect of having children on happiness is quite smaller for both males and females in this age range, similar to what has been found in some related studies (Dykstra and Keizer 2009; Hansen et al. (2005). In part, this small effect of children on well-being found by Kohler et al (2005) may be due to the fact that respondents ages fifty to seventy years are not yet old enough to encounter widespread health problems that may be associated with an increased demand for care and support provided by children.” (64-65)
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