Academic journal article Demographic Research

Patriarchy and Fertility in Albania

Academic journal article Demographic Research

Patriarchy and Fertility in Albania

Article excerpt



Theories of fertility collapse in the post-socialist era imply a decline in the moral primacy of traditional social institutions. Yet gender inequality actually increased in many countries, and there is a scarcity of empirical evidence for the role played by traditional social institutions in reproductive decision-making.


We investigate whether patriarchal institutions sustained the fertility levels in Albania. The geography of marriage and family enlargement is related to the importance of patriarchy in kinship organisation and in the public sphere. To account for this spatial relationship we test the evidence for different pathways in patriarchal influence on reproductive decision-making including social effects, socialisation in patriarchal ideals, and the promotion of male fertility.


We reconstruct reproductive histories from the 2001 Census and use data on attitudes and fertility intentions from the Reproductive and Health Survey 2002. Multilevel logistic regressions on marriage and (the intention of) higher order births are used.


A majority of women endorsed patriarchal ideals and fertility transition was less advanced in more patriarchal municipalities. Patriarchal kinship organisation promoted early marriages and high fertility, which is shown to be achieved by social learning among peers and intergenerational social influences respectively, as well as by women's socialisation and a stopping behaviour in childbearing dominated by son-preference. Although gender inequality in the public sphere has also sustained the level of fertility and decreased the risk of marriage, it was not accounted for by these pathways of patriarchal influence.


Despite Albania's gradual opening to the world in a period of economic and political crisis, traditional social institutions remain important for family behaviours.

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1. Introduction

A sharp decline in fertility during the post-socialist transition has been documented in Europe and the former Soviet Union with an analytical focus on the effects of economic crisis along with restructuring and ideational change (Billingsley 2010; Philipov and Dorbritz 2003; Sobotka 2003). Fertility limitation was initiated by the adverse material and social consequences of the crisis, and the onset of childbearing was further postponed when the economic and political situation stabilized. However, fertility trends in countries which have experienced social upheaval or war have highlighted the importance of social and cultural context for the way in which family behaviours respond. Young and stable ages at marriage, as well as fluctuating or increasing fertility, have indeed been attributed to a return to traditional values (Clifford, Falkingham, and Hinde 2009; Dommaraju and Agadjanian 2008; Lerch 2013a).

This is congruent with the decline in gender equality observed in many countries (UNDP and LSE 2007). Women paid heavily for the costs of the transition as they were affected by lower social transfers and high levels of unemployment. In the Western Balkans, as elsewhere in the post-socialist era, women retreated en masse from the labour market and the political sphere (Brunnbauer 2004; UNIFEM 2006). But there is a scarcity of empirical evidence for the role played by traditional social institutions in reproductive decision-making. Most evidence is only indirect. In Moldova, a lack of female autonomy increased fertility intentions (Ryabov 2010) whereas in Bulgaria, crisis-driven constraints on the onset of childbearing were mediated by social capital and normative pressures to become a mother (Billari, Philipov, and Testa 2009; Philipov, Spéder, and Billari 2006). According to Bühler's (2008) analysis of Bulgarian fertility, culturally-specific perceptions of the structural value of children for parents sustain the level of childbearing because it "may change their social networks in an advantageous way" (Bühler 2008: 572). …

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