Rethinking the contemporary history of fertility: family, state, and the world system
The paper highlights the drivers of contemporary fertility history in developed countries “forgotten” by theory: fundamental changes in the world system after the Second World War and in the late 1980s and early 1990s; competing ideas of the “right” family and family and demographic policy; centre-peripheral relations and their impact on the resource capabilities of such policy. Statistical analysis shows that the periods during which countries’ positions by total fertility rates remained stable were disrupted by intervals in which significant changes in these positions occurred. Twice, due to the Second World War and the disintegration of the Soviet bloc, such intervals coincided with fundamental shifts in the world system. In addition, such intervals occurred in Western countries in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the negative association between women’s participation in the labour force and fertility became positive, and then in the 2000s in Russia, countries of Eastern and Central Europe and the former Yugoslavia during fertility “recovery”. Contemporary fertility changes in the developed world are directed by “gravitational fields” of four attractors. Three of them are institutional traps created by low living standards, or contradictions between the “new” economy and “old” family relations, or, in varying proportions, both. The fourth attractor is an ideal condition in which generous family policy and men’s participation in the home maintain fertility at the replacement level. Currently, France and the Scandinavian countries come closest to this. The question of whether the developed semi-peripheral countries will be able to approach this condition, or, due to resource constraints, it will remain a privilege accessible only to the core countries, remains open.
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