Lowest-Low Fertility: A Theory of Normative Rigidity and Economic Context

Mary Brinton, Harvard University
Dong Ju Lee, Harvard University

Explaining the emergence of “lowest-low” fertility in postindustrial societies is a central concern of contemporary demography. Recent work has brought gender equity issues more centrally into theoretical formulations regarding lowest-low fertility. We build on this and accentuate the norms that affect men’s behavior as well as women’s. Of particular importance, we argue, are norms regarding men’s proper fulfillment of the breadwinner role. The paper develops a theoretical framework for explaining lowest-low fertility that prioritizes the strength and rigidity of family- and gender-role norms in a country together with the structural environment that facilitates or hampers adherence to these norms, especially on the part of men.

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Presented in Session 1: Low Fertility in Comparative Perspective