Europe's Second Demographic Transition

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Citation: van de Kaa, Kirk Europe's Second Demographic Transition.
Internet Archive Scholar (search for fulltext): Europe's Second Demographic Transition
Tagged: uw-madison (RSS), wisconsin (RSS), sociology (RSS), demography (RSS), prelim (RSS), qual (RSS), WisconsinDemographyPrelimAugust2009 (RSS)


Notes: Europe's second demographic transition began around 1965. Its principal feature is the decline in fertility from somewhat above replacement level to a level well below replacement. Barring immigration, population numbers will begin to decline. In contrast to the first demographic transition, mortality and immigration have not played a role in the transition. The first demographic transition was indirectly caused by industrialization, urbanization, and secularization. It meant the disappearance of the Malthusian pattern of family formation. The age at marriage declined and so did the number of people who remained permanently single. In contrast, the indirect determinants of the second demographic transition cannot be summed up so neatly. In these societies, one's standard of living is determined by one's level and quality of education, degree of commitment to societal goals, and motivation to develop one's talents. Getting married and/or having children may involve considerable opportunity costs, most often for the female partner.

Some researchers see growing secularization and the trend toward greater self-fulfillment and individualism as the underlying cause of low fertility. Some researchers see a dichotomy in Western society between progressiveness and conservatism. Between 1965 and 1986 approval for outside employment for mothers of school-age children, voluntary childlessness, cohabitation, and living-apart-together all increased. In 11 surveys in the six original EEC countries, a shift toward more progressive attitudes was evident. This shift is not independent of socioeconomic conditions, but is also insensitive to economic recessions and crises. This shift appears to have a momentum all of its own. Van de Kaa warns that pronatalist measures are likely to be unsuccessful unless they take into account the trend toward individualism. The demographic transition has involved a shift from marriage towards cohabitation, from children to adult as the focus of the family, from contraception to prevent unwanted births to a conscious decision about whether or not to have a child, and from uniform to diversified families and households. Premarital intercourse has increased steadily from cohort to cohort. These changes in behavior preceded changes in attitudes about premarital sex, therefore early on many couples legitimated their relationships through marriage, leading to a decline in the average age at marriage. Before the 1960s effective contraceptives were not readily available, so unwanted children continued to be born. However, by the early 1970s effective contraceptives were available and abortion laws were changing making fertility control possible. Increased sterilization also occurred, further reducing the number of unwanted births of higher orders. Changes in divorce laws allowed divorce to occur more frequently. Because people were able to delay childbearing, the necessity of marrying early declined and the average age at marriage increased. After awhile the pressure to marry began to decline as well, and rates of ever married declined and rates of unmarried childbearing increased. Only Denmark and Sweden have completed this transition, but several other Northern and Western European countries follow close behind. Greece, Malta, Spain, Portugal, and Yugoslavia follow behind these countries. In these countries, fertility decline has been less marked. Six Eastern European countries follow these three, while Iceland, Ireland, Albania, and Tunisia have been late completing the firs demographic transition and follow far behind the other countries in the second demographic transition. As of 1984/85 TFR were above 2.1 in only Ireland, Malta, Poland, Albania, Turkey, and the USSR. The TFR of the Federal Republic of Germany for 1984/85 was 1.29. In Eastern Europe, decline in the TFR began after a brief postwar baby boom and was generally marked between 1950 and 1965. In 1965, nearly all of the countries in Northern, Western, and Southern Europe had a TFR above 2.50. Fertility trends have been irregular in Eastern Europe. In five countries brief rises occurred due to governmental pronatalist measures. Poland appears to have experienced a spontaneous increase in the 1980s. In Denmark and Sweden fertility has exhibited an upswing since 1983. Women under age 25 have contributed a declining proportion of births to the TFR. The share of third and higher order births has declined almost everywhere, particularly after 1965. In some Northern and Western European countries the share of third and higher order births has increased due to the declining number of first and second births. In Northern, Western, and Southern Europe third or higher order births make up 20-25% of total births. In 1984 in Denmark, Norway, the UK, France, and the Federal Republic of Germany first births make up 45% of total births, while second births make up 35-37% of all births. Proportions are more varied in Eastern Europe, most likely because of governmental intervention.