Fertility postponement: cultural dynamics of structural change

Karel Neels, Vrije Universiteit Brussel

Cultural and economic theories of demographic change interpret the changing patterns of nuptiality and fertility that have emerged since the mid 1960s as coherent emanations of an ideational shift, or conversely, as the outcome of a limited set of economic principles. In this paper, the claims of cultural and economic arguments are tested using the maternity histories and histories of marital status of 3.013.051 Belgian women born between 1921 and 1975. This unique body of data allows to reconstruct patterns of first marriage, divorce, birth-order-specific fertility and nonmarital fertility as a function of educational attainment, labor force participation and regional settings over an extended period of time. These longitudinal results for the ‘heimat’ of the second demographic transition indicate that the demographic trends that emerged since the mid 1960s are not consistently related at the individual level and offer new insights on fertility postponement and subreplacement fertility.

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Presented in Session 9: Late fertility, twinning and reproductive technologies