Academic journal article Demographic Research

Fertility and Education in Poland during State Socialism

Academic journal article Demographic Research

Fertility and Education in Poland during State Socialism

Article excerpt

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1. Introduction

Studies on fertility in Poland mostly focus on the transition and post-transition period (Kotowska et al. 2008; Okólski 2006, 2007), contrasting the dynamic reality of the market economy with the predictability and stability of state socialism. It was, however, the People's Republic of Poland that experienced an educational revolution and shifted millions of people up to the basic vocational and secondary educational levels. It was also under state socialism that the average number of children a woman gave birth to (i.e., the completed fertility rate, CFR) declined substantially, from 2.8 to 2.2 in the 1930 and 1960 cohorts, respectively (Council of Europe 2005).

The likely strength of the relationship between education and fertility in communist Poland is difficult to assess, as there have been few studies on this topic. As, officially, the political system strove for equality in every aspect of life, one would expect small differences in fertility by the level of education. In practice, however, daily life was marked by social inequalities, which together with a means-tested family policy would speak for considerable educational differences in fertility, on a par with those in the Czech Republic, Russia, or Slovakia (Potancoková et al. 2008; Sobotka et al. 2008; Zakharov 2008).

This paper examines the relationship between education and cohort-completed fertility under state socialism in Poland. It describes fertility trends by education and quantifies the effect of female educational expansion on cohort fertility. In the last section it also discusses the meaning of education in Polish society during state socialism.

2. Data and methods

2.1 Data

The data come from the Fertility Survey that accompanied the 2002 Polish population census. From a representative sample of 264,845 women born between 1896 and 1986 I chose 116,969 females born between 1930 and 1959 (i.e., aged 43 to 72 at the time of the interview). After deleting cases with missing information on the number of children and on education, the final sample analysed in this paper covers 116,116 women (see Table A1 in Appendix for the distribution by cohort and education). The observations were weighted with post-stratification weights calculated from the Population Census 2002 by the Central Statistical Office.

All the analyses were carried out using four educational categories, which correspond to the following levels of the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED)2: primary and lower (up to 7-8 years of schooling, ISCED 0, 1, and 2); basic vocational (9-11 years of schooling, ISCED 3C); secondary (11-14 years of schooling, ISCED 3AB and 4); and tertiary (16 and more years of schooling, ISCED 5 and 6). Basic vocational education leads to skilled-worker jobs such as hairdresser, cook, or car mechanic. The category "secondary education" includes comprehensive and vocational secondary school, lasting for 4 and 5 years, respectively, and 1 to 2 years of post-secondary non-tertiary education.3 Comprehensive secondary school was usually chosen by people who were either planning to attend university afterwards or to acquire non-tertiary education, e.g., qualifications for jobs like nurse, secretary, or technician. Vocational secondary school graduates either decided on tertiary education or directly entered the labour market, working as technicians or highly skilled workers. Due to its very small numbers, the post-tertiary education (ISCED 6) category was merged with the tertiary level (ISCED 5). A university diploma provided eligibility for professions such as teacher, physician, lawyer, or other specialist; technical occupations like engineer were relatively seldom chosen by women.

The distribution by cohort and education of the cleaned and weighted sample is presented in the graph below (Figure 1).

In the sample there are considerably fewer women born before and during the Second World War than afterwards (see Table A1 in Appendix), which raises doubts about the representativeness of the cohorts born before 1946. …

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