Thursday, September 13, 2007

Non/Delayed Marriage and Fertility in Asia Pacific

We have done it again and we know it. Apart from Randy's excellent follow-up below on an earlier post on the imbalances between Canadian states as a result of differing demographic fundamentals the DM team has found itself sidetracked by other matters. Regular readers will be customed to this but still I feel the need to dish up the mandatory apology.

Now, we have on several occasions been discussing the underlying dynamics regarding the demographic transition and the subsequent drop in fertility rates. First of all and as an immediate qualifier we need to realize that this is far from a uniform process but rather one which occurs with different speed, characteristics and thus effects from country to country. As a basic framework it is fruitful to look at the overall drop in fertility as a two-mechanism process. These two mechanisms are often coined as the quantum and tempo effect of fertility where the former denotes how women choose to have fewer children overall whereas the latter describes the wellknown process of birth postponement which again is believed to have notable derivative effects on the quantum effect (i.e. this is just to say there are feedback mechanisms all over the place). At this point, this whole issue might seem very simple but as we move further it becomes clear that the issue is one of notable complexity. In this entry, I will refer a paper which uses the overall framework of life-course theory (e.g. time of marriage if at all) to explain why fertility has reached alarmingly low levels in pacific Asia. The paper (full text is firewalled!) is written by Gavin W. Jones and will appear in volume 33 issue 3 of the journal Population and Development Review. Below, I reproduce the abstract ...

The general decline in fertility levels in Pacific Asia has in its vanguard countries where fertility rates are among the lowest in the world. A related trend is toward delayed marriage and nonmarriage. When prevalence of cohabitation in European countries is allowed for, levels of "effective singlehood" in many countries of Pacific Asia have run ahead of those in northern and western Europe. This raises questions about the extent to which delayed marriage has been implicated in fertility declines, and whether the same factors are leading both to delayed marriage and to lowered fertility within marriage. The article argues that involuntary nonmarriage is likely to be more common in Pacific Asia than in Western countries, and that resultant involuntary childlessness plays a substantial role in the low fertility rates currently observed.

Before I leave you I want to emphasise the perspective taken by paper through life-course theory to explain the sustained drop in fertility. In this way, this is what we need to be aware of in the sense that both economic theory and the more soft social sciences (e.g. life course theory) both offer valuable contributions to explain why fertility is falling. As a very crude approximation we can say that economic theory customarily has been used to account for the quantum effect through the well known Becker-Barro fertility theory whereas the tempo effect seems to be more vested in life-course theory where e.g. Robert Sobotka's dissertation is a hallmark study. Regarding the immediate topic in question the framework used is not new. In this way, the correlation between delayed marriage/non-marriage and fertility levels has also been entertained in Japan as well as many other countries.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

An American professor of sociology, Arthur Brooks, wrote an article last year which is still talked about today:

http://www.opinionjournal.com/editorial/feature.html?id=110008831

He essentially demonstrates the positive relationship between religiousity and fertility in the US. We have certainly seen the impact already. The 2010 census will reallocated Congressional seats and electoral votes, and the more religious and conservative states such as Texas, Georgia, Nevada, Arizona, Florida, and North Carolina will be big winners. The losers: low-fertility "secular" states such as New York, Pennsylvania, and Michigan.

Other secular states such as California will gain marginally, thanks principally to large-scale Hispanic immigration.

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