Social Customs and Demographic Change: The Case of Godparenthood in Catholic Europe

Guido Alfani, Università Bocconi
Vincent Gourdon, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS)
Agnese Vitali, Università Bocconi

This article analyzes social norms regulating selection of godparents in Italy and France and how they will be affected by demographic change. On the grounds of Vatican statistics and of the World Values Survey, it demonstrates that the vast majority of children in Catholic Europe are baptised and that birth rituals are considered important even by non-believers. Relying on historical data, it shows that the custom of selecting godparents from among kinsmen, currently dominant, is a recent development. A new survey about selection of godparents in Italy and France, conducted for this study, shows that godparents are chosen not for religious, but for social-relational reasons. Selection of kinsmen is the norm, with uncles and aunts being the majority choice. For Italy, choice determinants are explored by means of multinomial regressions. The results are contrasted with demographic change to show that in lowest-low countries current godparenthood models are bound to disappear.

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Presented in Poster Session 6