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Rising support for reproductive freedoms: emancipatory breakthroughs into a bulwark of tradition


  • Amy C. Alexander

    () (Georg-August University)

  • Christian Welzel

    () (Center for the Study of Democracy, Leuphana University, Scharnhorststr.)

  • Ronald Inglehart

    () (Higher School of Economics)


This article presents evidence for a rising emancipatory spirit, across generations and around the world, in a life domain in which traditional family, fertility and sex (FFS) norms have been most resistant to emancipatory gains since the ages: reproductive freedoms. We propose an explanation of rising emancipative values that integrates several theoretical approaches into a single idea—the utility ladder of freedoms. Specifically, we suggest that objectively improving living conditions--from rising life expectancies to broadening education to better technologies—transform the nature of life from a source of threats to suffer into a source of opportunities to thrive. As living conditions begin to hold more promise for increasing population segments, societies climb the utility ladder of freedoms: supporting universal freedoms becomes increasingly instrumental to use the opportunities that a more promising life offers. This trend has begun to spill over into a life domain in which traditional FFS norms have until recently been able to block emancipatory gains: reproductive freedoms. We present (1) cross-national, (2) longitudinal, (3) generational and (4) multi-level evidence on an unprecedentedly broad basis in support of this theory.

Suggested Citation

  • Amy C. Alexander & Christian Welzel & Ronald Inglehart, 2013. "Rising support for reproductive freedoms: emancipatory breakthroughs into a bulwark of tradition," HSE Working papers WP BRP 30/SOC/2013, National Research University Higher School of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:hig:wpaper:30/soc/2013

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Oded Galor, 2011. "Unified Growth Theory," Economics Books, Princeton University Press, edition 1, number 9477.
    2. Ron Lesthaeghe, 2010. "The Unfolding Story of the Second Demographic Transition," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 36(2), pages 211-251.
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    More about this item


    emancipative values - existential opportunities - reproductive freedoms - secular values - sex norms - utility ladder of freedoms;

    JEL classification:

    • E11 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - General Aggregative Models - - - Marxian; Sraffian; Kaleckian

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