Educational Expansion, Social Classes and Reproductive Patterns in Low Fertility Settings. Theoretical Framework and Empirical Evidence for Selected Ggs Countries.

Maciej Gdula, Institute of Sociology, University of Warsaw
Krzysztof Tymicki, Demography Unit, Warsaw School of Economics

Fertility decline during the SDT has been accompanied by educational expansion. Negative relation between fertility decline and upwards educational mobility has been explained in terms of opportunity costs, labour market performance and social norms. Sociologists claim that educational expansion is weakening relationship between education, labour market performance and individual values since it is not accompanied by parallel changes in the level of social, cultural and economic capital. Thus, main goal of the research is to find out whether social class might serve as an alternative way of explaining differences in observed fertility patterns in low fertility societies. In order to achieve this goal we apply social class theory by Bourdieu in order to link changes in social structure and educational expansion to reproductive strategies and patterns. Using the employment histories (ISCO codes) from the GGS survey we reconstruct social class that is subsequently incorporated into statistical models aimed at explanation of “demographic outcomes” (parity, fertility intentions) and “normative outcomes” (attitudes towards gender roles and reproduction). Results show that social class performs as good as education with respect to “demographic outcomes” but does considerably better job in explanation of differences in “normative outcomes”. Overall, initial results show that that educational expansion led to changes in quantum and tempo of reproduction but it has only limited effect on change with respect to norms and values.

Background and research goals

Fertility decline in eastern European countries after 1989 has been accompanied by rapid educational expansion. As reported by OECD, among individuals born in Poland between 1948-1957 there were only 13% with higher level of education whereas this same figure for cohort 1968- 1977 and 1978-1987 yields 26% and 41% respectively. These changes were related mostly to pursue for higher education resulting from individual expectations that upward educational mobility produces higher income and more stable employment. However, as some sociologists argue, there is growing mismatch between educational structure and demand for employees on the labour market. Inter-generational mobility with respect to level of education does not have to be related with increase in amount of social, economic and cultural capital. This is important since most of demographic analyses assume that level of education serves as a good proxy for norms, values, labour market performance and opportunity costs.

Since impact of education is statistically significant regardless the expansion process question arises what is actually captured by this variable? Is this mostly effect of proliferation of norms and values related to childbearing, childrearing and family formation, the effect of labour market performance or finally time shifts on the individual life-course resulting in postponement. Thus it is actually question about validity of education attainment as a variable and interpretation of its’ effect on individual behaviour and perceived norms and values. In the present research we would like to focus on use of social class as an alternative, more valid measure, than level of education.

Theoretical background

We use theory of social classes proposed by Bourdieu. Proposed approach integrates social, economic and cultural perspectives on reproduction and refers to various dimensions of social stratification. The advantage of Bourdieu’s theory relies on integrating diversified dimensions of social stratification and social divisions elaborated separately by different theories of social structure. Combining economic, cultural and social dimension enables to develop precise definition of classes and to grasp different practices and strategies deployed by representatives of each social classes. Bourdieu constructs three social classes (higher, middle and popular) with use of three main forms of capital: economic, cultural and social. We accept, after Bourdieu, that the relationships between the classes are of competitive nature. The primary objective of the competition is to maintain or change the position in the class system (upward mobility). This objective is carried out by a multi-dimensional practices including competition for scarce resources, taking positions on the labour market, struggles for recognition of cultural practices and the effort to change certain areas of social life. Family and having children is one of the key dimensions of the competition and the reproduction of social classes.

Data and methods

Reconstruction of social classes is based on employment histories from both waves of Polish GGS survey (using of start and end date of a job with respective 3 digit ISCO-08 code). In the modeling phase we have analyzed two types of outcomes:

  • “Demographic”: fertility intentions, actual number of children.
  • “Normative”: agreeing or disagreeing with selected statements: “When jobs are scarce, men should have more right to a job than women“, “A woman has to have children in order to be fulfilled”, “On the whole, men make better political leaders than women”, “Homosexual couples should have the same rights as heterosexual couples do”

Results and discussion

In case of “demographic outcomes” inclusion of both “social class” and “level of education” into the models reveals negative gradient of educational attainment. In case of social class the only statistically positive effect appears in case of popular class in the model for “parity” (with middle class as a reference category). If the “class” and “education” variables are included separately in to the models they both reveal negative gradient for both dependent variables.

For the first three “normative outcomes” the effect of social class and educational attainment overlaps with the effect for “demographic outcomes”. Negative gradient prevails and both respondents form lower class and with lower level of education are more likely to be attached to “traditional” family model. The only difference has been noticed with respect to the last value statement (equal rights for homosexual couples) where upper class has been more likely to agree about equal rights for homosexual and heterosexual couples, which was not the case for those with higher level of education. Further exploration has been based on adding variable with split of respondents with higher level of education by the level of father’s education. In case of the demographic outcomes there were no significant differences with respect to the previous formulation of the model. In case of “normative outcomes” the second formulation of the model overlaps with the first one however there are significant differences with respect to attitude towards equal rights for homosexual and heterosexual couples.

Presented in Session 1158: Fertility