Lowest-Low Fertility and the Unfinished Gender Revolution in Postindustrial Societies

Mary Brinton, Harvard University
Dong Ju Lee, Harvard University

Fertility rates far below the population replacement level now characterize a broad swath of postindustrial societies, especially in Southern Europe and East Asia. While total fertility rates in some countries overestimate the “fertility crisis” by not reflecting changes in the tempo of childbearing, fertility in a number of countries is not predicted to rise significantly in the coming years. We employ a theoretical framework postulating how country-level “gender-role regimes” interact with labor market institutions and general economic conditions to produce variation in total fertility rates. Using latent class analysis, we demonstrate considerable variability across 26 OECD countries in the distribution of individuals across highly conservative, highly egalitarian, or mixed gender-role attitudes. The distribution of individuals across these classes—together with measures of labor market rigidity, the economic situation of young adult males, and state support for families—is predictive of variations in total fertility over the past two decades.

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Presented in Session 1: Low Fertility in Developed and Developing Countries