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Social Norms and Fertility

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  • Sunha Myong
  • JungJae Park
  • Junjian Yi

Abstract

We document three stylized facts on marriage and fertility patterns in East Asian societies: (i) their marriage rates are among the highest in the world, but their total fertility is the lowest; (ii) although they have the lowest total fertility, almost all married women have at least one child; and (iii) almost no single women have any children. As these societies have been influenced by Confucianism over millennia, marriage and fertility decisions are potentially shaped by two social norms: the unequal gender division of childcare and the stigma attached to out-of-wedlock births. We present a model incorporating the two social norms, and structurally estimate it using data from South Korea. We find that the social norm of unequal gender division of childcare plays a significant role in the low fertility rates, especially for highly educated women. However, the social stigma attached to out-of-wedlock births has modest effects on the childlessness rate for single women. Our results show that the tension between the persistent gender ideology and the rapid socioeconomic development is the main driving force behind the unique marriage and fertility patterns in East Asian societies.

Suggested Citation

  • Sunha Myong & JungJae Park & Junjian Yi, 2021. "Social Norms and Fertility," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 19(5), pages 2429-2466.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:jeurec:v:19:y:2021:i:5:p:2429-2466.
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1093/jeea/jvaa048
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    3. Fiaschi, Davide & Tealdi, Cristina, 2023. "The attachment of adult women to the Italian labour market in the shadow of COVID-19," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 83(C).
    4. Yung-Yu Tsai & Hsing-Wen Han & Kuang-Ta Lo & Tzu-Ting Yang, 2022. "The Effect of Financial Resources on Fertility: Evidence from Administrative Data on Lottery Winners," Papers 2212.06223, arXiv.org, revised Dec 2023.
    5. Pauline Rossi & Yun Xiao, 2020. "Spillovers in Childbearing Decisions and Fertility Transitions: Evidence from China," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 20-031/V, Tinbergen Institute.
    6. KITAO Sagiri & NAKAKUNI Kanato, 2023. "On the Trends of Technology, Family Formation, and Women's Time Allocation," Discussion papers 23075, Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry (RIETI).

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J11 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Demographic Trends, Macroeconomic Effects, and Forecasts
    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth

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