MPIDR Working Paper

Italy’s path to very low fertility: the adequacy of economic and second demographic transition theories

Kertzer, D. K., White, M. W., Bernardi, L., Gabrielli, G. G.
MPIDR Working Paper WP-2006-049, 44 pages.
Rostock, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (December 2006)
The paper is submitted as research article to a peer reviewed journal. An earlier version of this article was presented at the 2006 meetings of the Population Association of America in Los Angeles. Based on research supported by grants from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (R01 HD048715) and the National Science Foundation (BCS 0418443). This working paper has been published. See the link above for further information.
Open Access


The deep drop of the fertility rate in Italy to among the lowest in the world challenges contemporary theories of childbearing and family building. Among high-income countries, Italy was presumed to have characteristics of family values and female labor force participation that would favor higher fertility than its European neighbors to the north. We test competing economic and cultural explanations, drawing on new nationally representative, longitudinal data to examine first union, first birth, and second birth. Our event history analysis finds some support for economic determinants of family formation and fertility, but the clear importance of regional differences and of secularization suggests that such an explanation is at best incomplete and that cultural and ideational factors must be considered.
Keywords: Italy, event history analysis, fertility decline, living space
The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.