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Gender Equity in Theories of Fertility Transition


  • Peter McDonald


Recent theoretical discussion has postulated that low fertility in advanced countries is attributable to low levels of gender equity. Low gender equity is evidenced in the lack of support for women to combine paid employment and childrearing; tax-transfer systems that remain based on the male-breadwinner model of the family; and the retention of gender-oriented roles within the family. Hence, it is argued that an increase in gender equity is a precondition of a rise in fertility from very low levels. At the same time, theorists argue that, in less developed countries, higher levels of gender equity are a necessary condition for achieving lower fertility. The article addresses this apparent contradiction by distinguishing two types of gender equity: gender equity in individual-oriented institutions and gender equity in family-oriented institutions. The argument is made that the transition from very high fertility to replacement-level fertility has been associated with a gradual increase in gender equity primarily within the family itself. In contrast, the further movement to very low fertility is associated with a rapid shift toward high levels of gender equity in individual institutions such as education and market employment, in combination with persistent low levels of gender equity within the family and in family-oriented institutions. Copyright 2000 by The Population Council, Inc..

Suggested Citation

  • Peter McDonald, 2000. "Gender Equity in Theories of Fertility Transition," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 26(3), pages 427-439.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:popdev:v:26:y:2000:i:3:p:427-439

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Robert Holzmann, 2002. "Can Investments in Emerging Markets Help to Solve the Ageing Problem?," Journal of Emerging Market Finance, Institute for Financial Management and Research, vol. 1(2), pages 215-241, September.
    2. James M. Poterba, 1998. "Population Age Structure and Asset Returns: An Empirical Investigation," NBER Working Papers 6774, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. William A. Jackson, 1998. "The Political Economy of Population Ageing," Books, Edward Elgar Publishing, number 765.
    4. Richard Disney, 1996. "Can We Afford to Grow Older?," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 026204157x, July.
    5. Jonathan Gruber & David A. Wise, 1999. "Social Security and Retirement around the World," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number grub99-1, January.
    6. Jonathan Gruber & David A. Wise, 1999. "Introduction to "Social Security and Retirement around the World"," NBER Chapters,in: Social Security and Retirement around the World, pages 1-35 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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