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Southern Europe and low fertility: micro and macro determinants of a crucial demographic and cultural revolution

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - SEU-FER (Southern Europe and low fertility: micro and macro determinants of a crucial demographic and cultural revolution)

Reporting period: 2018-06-01 to 2020-05-31

"Fertility decline in Europe has been underway for several decades and is known as fertility transition. This process has taken place over the last two centuries with different patterns and paces with the result that by the 1980s a large proportion of European countries were experiencing fertility levels at or below 2.1 children per woman, the threshold that is conventionally considered to ensure the renewal of generations. Only ten years later, in the 1990s, Spain (together with Italy) experienced significantly lower values (1.5 children per woman), qualifying it for inclusion in a group of European countries with low and ""lowest low fertility"". During this period, many provinces of Spain and Italy even recorded a TFR (Total fertility rate) falling below 1. Although in recent years there have been signs of recovery, the current economic recession is an obstacle to an effective improvement. Below replacement fertility is a condition that affects much of Southern Europe, a considerable number of other European areas, and also more recently industrialised countries. The forces that have driven this epochal change have been broadly identified, with an established correlation between fertility decline and modernization as characterised by industrialization, urbanization, increasing education and decreasing mortality. However at the individual level, the mechanisms that have been driving this general process of change are still blurred. In particular, the specific factors that induced women, within few generations, to give birth to fewer children at later ages are insufficiently explored. Discovering and detecting the mechanisms of fertility decline would clarify not only a fundamental piece of Southern Europe recent history, but will also facilitate a deeper knowledge of culture and society.
SEU-FER will provide an explanatory framework for two countries (Spain and Italy) that are not only demographically important in southern Europe, but also have a strong economic, social and cultural relevance for the whole European Continent. Different factors will be considered: the socio-economic, political, environmental and territorial contexts, the role of institutions, but also community access to services, modernisation and information; individual and household variables like education, SES (Socio Economic Status), family composition and fertility behaviours of parents (and relatives). The analysis explore both overall fertility levels and temporal components of fertility using Event History technique and proportional hazards models. Models provide the individual risk of having a child or, on the contrary, the risk of remaining childless in a specific time span. Results are provided not only for women, but also for men, a crucial aspect because in the process of fertility decline men’s role have hardly been considered by most demographic literature"
The work has dealt with various issues concerning fertility both in historical and current times, such as: male fertility, the differential fertility between migrating and settling in historical times, but also the role of the job insecurity on the current dynamics of low fertility. The three topics are briefly summarized below:

1) In the process of fertility decline, the role and participation of men have hardly been considered in the demographic literature. It has grown only as fertility was dropping dramatically in most Western countries, but very little has been done to analyze such an issue in historical populations. Based on individual-level data, the present paper aims at investigating, by means of hazard models, the role of males in the reproductive pattern of the pre-transitional population of Alghero, Sardinia (1866–1935). The results show a slower decrease of male fertility (-23% at 40–49 years; around -50% at 50+) compared to female fertility (about -40% already at 35–49 years), with significant differentials by socioeconomic status (SES). Wealthier men present, in fact, lower fertility than poorest ones, with a gap that, however, reduces with age and even reverses at 50+ years. The reason for such a change is likely to be partly associated with the better health conditions of the wealthy group, developed especially in adulthood, given the absence of a significant relationship between height and fertility SES differentials.

2) Historical studies of fertility based on micro-data focused first on small villages, then on urban and industrial populations. However, little is still known about fertility in the capital cities that were the vanguards of modernization. This study investigates differential legitimate fertility by origin in the city of Madrid in 1905. We aim to test the hypotheses of adaptation, socialization, selection, and disruption, while searching signs of birth control. In addition to descriptive statistics, logistic models on the likelihood of a legitimate birth are proposed. We find a general adaptation of migrants to the fertility levels of the city, even if isolated indication of socialization and disruption can also be recognized. Selection remains unclear. Our findings highlight how the dominant pattern in Madrid 1905 was a homogeneous marital fertility for natives and for migrants from diverse origins, a scenario mainly due to the adverse conditions encountered by the lower classes in the city. Despite some limitations, this article extends the knowledge on fertility differentials by origin in the urban environment in historical time. This paper also contributes to explain the relatively low legitimate fertility, frequent in capital cities just before the decisive decline.

3) The association between women’s participation in labour market and fertility has been studied in the last years in Southern Europe. In Spain, for example, women who worked in public sector jobs, became mothers earlier than self- employed and private sector employees . The role of men in these dynamics, in contrast, has received less attention from demographers and social science scholars. We use data from the 2018 Spanish National Fertility Survey recently provided by INE (Spanish National Institute of Statistics), focusing our attention on the relationship between men’s participation in labour market and transition to first birth. We create an episode-structured data-set in order to estimate event-history models. Our outcomes highlight how labour uncertainty delayed the men’ s transition to first birth in Spain in the last recent years.

The results were disseminated through scientific papers, conferences and events such as Researchers' Night and Science week.
The project has made it possible to explore demographic and social dynamics related to the phenomenon of the current low fertility in the south of Europe, making possible to connect past and present as connected and not separate entities. The current low fertility in Europe, as well as the reasons that led to this scenario, are fundamental components of the European population as well as of future political choices. A better understanding of these phenomena can only improve future choices and planning. The results are of great interest not only to social science scholars, but may cover a wider range of interests.
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