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The Limits to Low Fertility: A Biosocial Approach


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  • Caroline Foster
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    In light of 30 years of below-replacement fertility in many industrialized societies, demographers are asking whether fertility could drop even further, or whether there is a "floor" below which it will not fall. A key unanswered question is whether there may be a variable biological component to fertility motivation which ensures that we continue to reproduce. Drawing on evidence from evolutionary biology, ethology, quantitative genetics, developmental psychobiology, and psychology, the article argues that our evolved biological predisposition is toward nurturing behaviors, rather than having children per se. Humans have the unique ability to be aware of such biological predispositions and translate them into conscious, but nevertheless biologically based, fertility motivation. It is likely that we have already reached the limits to low fertility since this "need to nurture," in conjunction with normative pressures, ensures that the majority of women will want to bear at least one child. A sketch for a biosocial model of fertility motivation is outlined. Copyright 2000 by The Population Council, Inc..

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    Article provided by The Population Council, Inc. in its journal Population and Development Review.

    Volume (Year): 26 (2000)
    Issue (Month): 2 ()
    Pages: 209-234

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    Handle: RePEc:bla:popdev:v:26:y:2000:i:2:p:209-234

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    Cited by:
    1. Anna Baranowska & Anna Matysiak, 2011. "Does parenthood increase happiness? Evidence for Poland," Vienna Yearbook of Population Research, Vienna Institute of Demography (VID) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna, vol. 9(1), pages 307-325.
    2. Jason Collins & Oliver Richards, 2013. "Evolution, Fertility and the Ageing Population," Economics Discussion / Working Papers 13-02, The University of Western Australia, Department of Economics.
    3. Laura Stark & Hans-Peter Kohler, 2000. "The public perception and discussion of falling birth rates: the recent debate over low fertility in the popular press," MPIDR Working Papers WP-2000-009, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany.
    4. Tomas Sobotka, 2003. "Tempo-quantum and period-cohort interplay in fertility changes in Europe," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 8(6), pages 151-214, April.
    5. Samuel H. Preston & Caroline Sten Hartnett, 2010. "The Future of American Fertility," NBER Chapters, in: Demography and the Economy, pages 11-36 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.


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