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



Studies on fertility in Poland focus on the turbulent transition period and its consequences. However, during state socialism significant societal and demographic changes took place.


This article studies the macro-level relationship between education and completed fertility of Polish women born between 1930 and 1959, and tries to assess how changes in women's educational structure affected fertility.


Using data from the large-scale Fertility Survey 2002 that accompanied the Polish population census, I first look into fertility trends by education and five-year cohorts. Then, by applying Cho's and Retherford's decomposition analysis and direct standardisation, I assess the role of women's educational expansion in fertility changes.


Despite profound structural changes and the ruling egalitarian ideology, the educational gradient in completed fertility remained strongly negative in all analysed cohorts. The observed decline in completed fertility from 2.51 in the 1930-34 cohort to 2.22 in the 1955-59 cohort can be explained by the expansion of female education. Had the educational structure not changed, the completed fertility of the youngest cohort would have been slightly higher than that of the oldest cohort.


Under state socialism in Poland, better-educated women had on average fewer children than the less educated. The expansion of female education played an important role in fertility decline.

(ProQuest: ... denotes formulae omitted.)

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). …

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