The Institutional Context of Population Change: Patterns of Fertility and Mortality across High-Income Nations [NOOK Book]


Despite having similar economies and political systems, high-income nations show persistent diversity. In this pioneering work, Fred C. Pampel looks at fertility, suicide, and homicide rates in eighteen high-income nations to show how they are affected by institutional structures. European nations, for example, offer universal public benefits for men and women who are unable to work and have policies to ease the burdens of working mothers. The United States, in contrast, does not. This study demonstrates how ...
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The Institutional Context of Population Change: Patterns of Fertility and Mortality across High-Income Nations

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Despite having similar economies and political systems, high-income nations show persistent diversity. In this pioneering work, Fred C. Pampel looks at fertility, suicide, and homicide rates in eighteen high-income nations to show how they are affected by institutional structures. European nations, for example, offer universal public benefits for men and women who are unable to work and have policies to ease the burdens of working mothers. The United States, in contrast, does not. This study demonstrates how public policy differences such as these affect childbearing among working women, moderate pressures for suicide and homicide among the young and old, and shape sex difference in suicide and homicide.

The Institutional Context of Population Change cuts across numerous political and sociological topics, including political sociology, stratification, sex and gender, and aging. It persuasively shows the importance of public policies for understanding the demographic consequences of population change and the importance of demographic change for understanding the consequences of public policies.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226645278
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 4/15/2010
  • Series: Population and Development Series
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 312
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

Fred C. Pampel is a research associate in the Population Program of the Institute of Behavioral Science and professor of sociology at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He is the author of Social Change and the Aged and coauthor of Old Age Security in Comparative Perspective and Age, Class, Politics, and the Welfare State.
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The Institutional Context of Population Change: Patterns of Fertility and Mortality Across High-Income Nations

By Fred C. Pampel

University of Chicago Press

Copyright © 2001 Fred C. Pampel
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0226645258

CHAPTER 1 - The Demographic Consequences of Changing Cohort Size and Female Work

Patterns of Demographic Change

Fertility and Mortality

Despite having passed through a demographic transition to low fertility and mortality rates, the high-income nations of Western Europe, North America, Oceania, and Japan have nonetheless experienced notable and often puzzling demographic changes in recent decades. Fertility rates have shown substantial fluctuation: after a period of low birth rates during the economic Depression of the 1930s, an unexpectedly sharp rise in fertility occurred in the 1950s, followed by an equally unexpected and sudden drop in fertility in the mid-1960s, and then a leveling off of the decline and a small increase in fertility during the 1980s and 1990s. The United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand exhibited the greatest post-World War II fluctuations in fertility (Lesthaeghe 1983), while less striking patterns emerged in European nations (Chesnais 1992; Guibert-Lantoine and Monnier 1997).

In addition to the level of fertility, the age pattern of childbearing also changed. The shift from the high fertility of the 1950sto the low fertility of later decades resulted, in large part, from women in high-income nations delaying first births to older ages. Accordingly, fertility rates have fallen more among women ages 15-24 than among women 25-34. Here again, however, differences exist across nations (Morgan 1996). The United States, for example, has relatively high birth rates among teenagers compared to European nations. At the other extreme, Irish women have a particularly high proportion of births at the oldest ages. Even holding fertility levels constant, the age pattern of births represents a dimension of demographic behavior that varies across time and nations.

Trends in mortality rates have not fluctuated like fertility but, averaged across all causes, show steady declines. During the 40 years from 1950 to 1990, life expectancy at birth rose from 68 to 75 in the United States, from 72 to 77 in Sweden, and from 63 to 79 in Japan. Despite some noted exceptions--such as the prevalence of heart disease deaths among middle-aged males in the 1960s or rising deaths from violence and AIDS among young males since the late 1980s--continued decline in mortality characterizes the high-income nations in the last half of the twentieth century. Perhaps equally notable, the decline in mortality for women--at least until recently--substantially exceeded that for men, thus generating a sex differential in mortality that has received much popular and scholarly attention.

In contrast to the overall downward movement in mortality rates, trends in certain kinds of mortality reveal larger fluctuations over time and greater variation across nations. Deaths from such external causes as suicide and homicide, in particular, relate more closely to problems of daily living than to the steady improvements in medical care. Deaths from violence respond directly and immediately to economic conditions, social integration, alcohol and drug use, group conflict, inequality, and availability of weapons. Given varied trends in these social conditions in modern societies, suicide and homicide can change in unexpected and nonlinear ways. Further, the social nature of violent deaths means that they vary widely across nations with diverse cultures and patterns of social behavior. Homicide in the United States and suicide in Sweden, for example, reach much higher levels than in most other nations.

Deaths from violence also vary by age. Suicide and homicide kill persons at all ages but represent leading causes of death for persons under age 45 and contribute more than most other causes to premature loss of life (Rockett 1998). Deaths from homicide are highest among young people, while deaths from suicide are highest among older persons. Still, deaths from both have risen among youth in the United States, even creating a sense of crisis about the conditions of younger generations. Although less severe in European nations, problems of lethal violence also occur outside the United States. Again, variation in age patterns exists both over time and across nations for these causes of death.

Along with variation by age, lethal violence varies by sex. By a large margin, males at all ages die from suicide and homicide more often than do females. The sizes of sex differences in these types of mortality no doubt vary across nations and change over time, but sex differences have not been investigated to the same extent as the level of violent mortality. Likely, sex differentials remain smaller in nations with overall low levels of violent mortality and have increased over time as the sex differential for all causes has increased. Thus, sex differentials in violent deaths may represent another important dimension of demographic change in high-income nations.

Age Structure and Its Demographic Consequences

Changes in fertility and, to a lesser degree, changes in mortality contribute to another component of demographic variation among the high-income nations: uneven age structures and contrasting cohort sizes (Lutz 1991). The general decline in fertility over the past century and the specific decline in mortality among the elderly in recent decades have contributed to a long-term trend of population aging (Kannisto 1994). Within that long-term trend, however, low birth rates during the Great Depression followed by baby booms and then baby busts have produced bottom-heavy age structures in the 1950s, large youth populations in the 1960s and 1970s, and increasingly middle-age structures in the 1980s and 1990s and, in the next century, will produce huge elderly populations.

Along with the general trend in age structure, variation also exists across the high-income nations. Those nations experiencing the largest fluctuations in fertility, with the largest baby booms and subsequent baby busts, also exhibited more widely varying cohort sizes in the decades that followed. Because of their high fertility peaks in the late 1950s and early 1960s, for example, the former English colonies, particularly the United States, experienced uneven age structures and contrasting cohort sizes more so than most European nations did.

Changes in the age distribution of populations can in turn influence the demographic behavior and social well-being of cohorts. Although such influences remain the subject of much debate (which this book aims to address), they suggest--in even a qualified form--some interesting sources of social and demographic change in modern societies. First, changes in the relative size of age groups and cohorts affect levels of fertility and mortality. Although accumulated fertility and mortality rates in the long run shape the age structure, the relative sizes of cohorts reflected in the age structure can have more immediate impacts on fertility and mortality rates. According to Easterlin (1987a), cohort size affects the supply of workers, opportunities for promotion, wage levels, and relative economic well-being of individuals and families. Relative economic well-being in turn influences the propensity toward marriage, divorce, and fertility. It also affects certain kinds of mortality, such as suicide and homicide, that involve violence, social pathology, and immediate personal problems. The different experiences across cohorts of different sizes may help define identities, cultural values, and social behaviors of generations--including values and behaviors related to family goals and personal health--and contribute to concerns about generation-based social inequality.

Second, changes in the relative size of age groups and cohorts may affect sex differences in mortality. Although important for all members of a cohort, size may have greater, more immediate influences on males than on females. Again based on Easterlin's (1987a) arguments, to the extent that roles for men more strongly relate to occupational success than do roles for women, men may more strongly feel the impact, for better or worse, of cohort-driven changes in opportunities for promotion, wage levels, and relative economic well-being of individuals and families. That claim does not deny the importance of work and financial success for women and the importance of family life and child rearing for men, nor does it minimize the obvious changes that have taken place toward greater gender equality in social life. It does, however, recognize that men and women have not yet reached full equality and likely respond differently to demographic changes. In regard to mortality, then, this reasoning suggests that cohort size may increase suicide and homicide, but may do so more for men than for women.

Female Employment and Its Demographic Consequences

Other changes besides those involving age and cohort structure contribute to variation across nations and over time in fertility and mortality outcomes. Of most importance is the expansion of the female labor force. Like cohort size, trends and patterns of female work both respond to and cause changes in fertility and mortality. The long-term downward trend in fertility freed women from family duties that had prevented participation in the paid labor force (Oppenheimer 1982) and, ultimately, contributed to the emergence of the women's movement and made work acceptable for married mothers (Mason 1997). Lengthened life expectancy, by extending the years of potential work after the growth of children, similarly contributed to the reentrance of women into the labor force during middle age (Davis and van den Oever 1982).

In turn, however, female employment and independence can have more immediate influences on fertility and mortality. Again, these influences remain subject to debate but raise important issues that need study. One such issue is that increased desires of and opportunities for women to work outside the family may have contributed to declining fertility. According to economic arguments, women lose more in potential wages from having children when they have better work and career opportunities and, according to sociological arguments, gain less in terms of personal and social satisfaction from children in societies that value autonomy, careerism, and materialism. In the short run, having children limits work opportunities, but in the longer run women's commitment to work and desire for economic independence appear to limit fertility.

Another issue needing study is that changes in women's work may affect sex differences in mortality--although the direction of change is less clear. On one side, some argue that equalizing gender and work roles equalizes conditions that cause mortality and reduces the sex differential in mortality in general and violent mortality in particular. On the other side, some argue that equalizing gender and work roles gives women the status advantages that men have traditionally enjoyed and, therefore, further expands the female mortality advantage. Either way, social changes in the gender composition of the labor force can alter the relative mortality rates of men and women.

To summarize, changes and national differences in fertility and in mortality from violence, along with sex differences in mortality from violence in modern societies, raise important and sometimes puzzling questions. Of particular interest to many scholars, these changes and national differences may relate to age structure, cohort size, female work, and gender equality. In fact, issues concerning these relationships have, in high-income nations, come to replace issues of population growth as dominant population concerns among policy makers. Although crucial for the experiences of Third World countries, population size seems less important for nations with relatively low rates of population growth and current fertility below replacement rates. Instead, much popular attention these days focuses on the baby-boom and baby-bust generations, on the relative size and well-being of child and elderly populations, and on youth violence--all issues relating to generational and cohort inequality. Similar popular attention focuses on promoting gender equality, the consequences of female labor force participation for family formation, the availability and quality of day care for children with working parents, and the harm or benefit to women's health, well-being, and mortality from new social roles.

As already noted, however, claims about cohort size and recent changes in fertility, mortality, and sex differences in mortality have produced more controversy than acceptance. The links between cohort size and demographic outcomes, although an accepted part of the field, prove quite complex. Indeed, scholars offer divergent views of the consequences of changes in cohort size for demographic behavior. The links between female work and fertility or mortality prove similarly complex and also involve theoretical and empirical controversy. The next sections review these controversies in more detail, first considering the consequences of cohort size for fertility and mortality and then considering the consequences of female work for fertility and the sex differential in mortality. The concluding sections of the chapter then suggest ways to make sense of divergent theoretical views and empirical results and provide a general hypothesis to guide the analysis in the chapters to come.

Debate over the Consequences of Cohort Change

On one side, Easterlin (1973, 1976, 1978, 1987a, 1987b) presents and most strongly defends the claim that large cohort size lowers fertility and raises mortality. He argues that, because of competition over increasingly scarce resources, members of large cohorts experience shortages of teachers and schools when young, labor market competition and unemployment in early adulthood, low pay and few promotions during adulthood, and tight public retirement benefits in old age. The deprivation felt by members of large cohorts results in late marriage, low fertility, high divorce, and high levels of suicide and homicide. Just the opposite occurs for smaller cohorts, whose members enjoy greater economic success, more stable and satisfying family lives, and lower rates of suicide and homicide.

On the other side, Preston (1984) cites improvements in the status of a growing elderly population relative to a declining child population to make the more general point that large cohorts benefit from their ability to influence public policy and garner consumer resources. Because large cohorts represent potentially large voting blocs and purchasing segments, their political and economic concerns become societal concerns. Moreover, when smaller cohorts follow larger ones, the larger cohorts continue to dominate the economy and fill most of the jobs. All this may contribute to the wellbeing of an increasingly large older generation and the large baby-boom generation relative to the younger baby-bust generation.

To complicate the debate further, many researchers discount altogether the influence of cohort size. For example, researchers find inconsistent and weak relationships of cohort size with fertility, earnings, unemployment, and labor force participation in European countries (Bloom, Freeman, and Korenman 1987; Wright 1989). Similarly, studies in the past decade find that the expected benefits of small cohort size among young people have yet to emerge (Olsen 1994). More generally, cohort effects have little influence relative to age and period effects on fertility (Bhrolcha´in 1992). As a result, a number of scholars suggest that cohort size contributes little to recent social and demographic trends. Instead, much attention has focused on the impact of changes in female work and wages (Butz and Ward 1979; Robinson 1997; Schultz 1981) and in individualist and secular values (Lesthaeghe 1995; Lesthaeghe and Surkyn 1988; Westoff 1991) that affect members of cohorts of all sizes.

In addition, debate over the importance of cohort size for fertility and mortality relates to the mortality differential between men and women. Easterlin (1987a) argues that, given the gender inequality that continues to characterize social life, cohort size has greater effects on male than on female mortality. For large cohorts, suicide and homicide mortality will increase more quickly for men than for women, thereby widening gender differences in mortality. Small cohorts, in contrast, will enjoy similarly low mortality rates for both men and women. The competing arguments about cohort size, however, might posit the opposite. For instance, as large cohorts come to gain the benefits of social well-being and public support, men may gain relative to women in their rates of mortality, causing the gender gap to decline. Small cohorts may show the largest gender difference in mortality rates. Or, if cohort size has little effect on male mortality, it likely will have little effect on female mortality and no effect on the sex differential in mortality. The negative evidence for the influence of cohort size may apply to sex differences in mortality and negate claims about the special harm of large cohort size for men relative to women.

Overall, theory and research on the impact of cohort size on fertility and mortality exhibit wide divergence. Not only do scholars typically disagree over the importance of cohort size, but they disagree as well on the direction of the impact. Some claim that large cohort size lowers fertility and raises mortality, while others claim that large cohort size brings economic benefits. The theoretical disagreement likewise spills over into empirical studies. Much evidence shows negative effects of cohort size, other evidence shows positive effects, and still other evidence shows no effects at all (Pampel and Peters 1995).


Excerpted from The Institutional Context of Population Change: Patterns of Fertility and Mortality Across High-Income Nations by Fred C. Pampel Copyright © 2001 by Fred C. Pampel. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Tables and Figures
1. The Demographic Consequences of Changing Cohort Size and Female Work
2. Sociopolitical Sources of Demographic Divergence
3. Contextual Variation in the Determinants of Fertility
4. Relative Cohort Size and the Total Fertility Rate
5. Female Labor Force Participation and the Total Fertility Rate
6. Cohort Size and Suicide and Homicide Mortality
7. Age-Specific Suicide Rates
8. Age-Specific Homicide Rates
9. Sex Differences in Suicide and Homicide Mortality
10. Sex Differences in Suicide Rates
11. Sex Differences in Homicide Rates
Appendix A: Statistical Models and Estimation I
Appendix B: Statistical Models and Estimation II
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