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

  • Amy C. Alexander


  • Christian Welzel


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

  • Ronald Inglehart


    (Higher School of Economics)

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    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.

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    Paper provided by National Research University Higher School of Economics in its series HSE Working papers with number WP BRP 30/SOC/2013.

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    Length: 39 pages
    Date of creation: 2013
    Date of revision:
    Publication status: Published in WP BRP Series: Sociology / SOC, December 2013, pages 1-39
    Handle: RePEc:hig:wpaper:30/soc/2013
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    1. 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.
    2. Oded Galor, 2005. "Unified Growth Theory," Development and Comp Systems 0504001, EconWPA.
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