Academic journal article Population

Female Education and Fertility under State Socialism in Central and Eastern Europe

Academic journal article Population

Female Education and Fertility under State Socialism in Central and Eastern Europe

Article excerpt

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Trends in cohort fertility in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE)(1) have not been widely discussed. Existing contributions focus mostly on contrasting the stability of state socialism with the dynamic developments during the economic and political transition that began in 1989 (Kotowska et al., 2008; Muresan et al., 2008; Perelli-Harris, 2008; Potancoková et al., 2008; Sobotka et al., 2008; Spéder and Kamarás, 2008; Stropnik and Sircelj, 2008; Zakharov, 2008). They usually analyse trends in period fertility and are mostly one-country studies that do not aim to provide a broader comparative perspective (Wood et al. (2014) being an exception).

As state socialism ostensibly strove for equality in every aspect of life, one would expect rather small differences in fertility, similar to those observed in Belgium, Norway or Sweden (Andersson et al., 2009; Kravdal and Rindfuss, 2008; Neels and De Wachter, 2010). In practice, however, daily life was marked by substantial social inequalities, implying considerable educational differences in fertility, on a par with those seen in Austria or Great Britain (Prskawetz et al., 2008; Sigle-Rushton, 2008). The existing evidence suggests that the education-fertility relationship in CEE before 1989 was negative, but its strength varied greatly over time and across countries, fading out in Slovenia, and persisting or growing in Poland, Slovakia or Romania (Brzozowska, 2014; Muresan and Hoem, 2010; Potancoková et al., 2008; Stropnik and Sircelj, 2008).

This article examines the macro-level relationship between women's educational expansion and completed fertility under state socialism in Europe. The aim is to determine whether the observed fertility trends were driven by changes in the educational structure or in fertility behaviour net of education. More specifically, the following questions are addressed:

* How strong was the educational gradient in completed fertility (including childlessness and high parity births) and how did it vary over time and by country?

* What was the effect of female educational expansion on the trends in completed fertility in the analysed countries?

* How did fertility net of growing educational attainment change? What was the role of childlessness and high parity births in fertility changes net of education?

* To what extent did the analysed countries share the overall and education-specific trends in completed fertility?

To answer these questions, we study trends in completed fertility by level of education of women born between 1916 and 1960. By choosing this timespan we cover the whole state-socialist era, stretching from the 1940s to 1989-1990. Census data from seven CEE countries are used: Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.(2) These countries reflect the diversity of the CEE region, ranging from the highly secularized and relatively rich Czech Republic, through strongly Catholic and rather conservative Poland and Slovakia, to Christian Orthodox and economically less developed Romania. Croatia and Slovenia represent the more liberal Communist regime of former Yugoslavia. East Germany and the Baltic states, and the most populous country, Russia, are excluded due to a lack of data; this is a clear limitation of the study.

Section I of this article describes how female educational attainment and labour force participation expanded and how state socialism defined the role of women, their rights and duties as mothers, wives and employees. Section II gives an overview of country-specific social and reproductive policies. The analysis then focuses on trends in female educational structure and fertility, including childlessness and high parity births. Changes in the completed fertility rate (CFR) are decomposed into those driven by growing educational attainment (structural effects) and those due to changing fertility within the educational groups (direct effects). …

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