Spatial Patterns of Non-Marital Births: A View on the Second Demographic Transition in Serbia

Daniela Arsenović, University of Novi Sad, Faculty of Sciences
Vladimir Nikitović, Institute of Social Sciences, Belgrade
Branislav Bajat, University of Belgrade, Faculty of Civil Engineering, Department of Geodesy and Geoinformatics

Recent research brings diverse findings on timing of the second demographic transition (SDT) in Serbia, mostly based on regional divergence of demographic trends. SDT in European context was studied using different socio-demographic indicators, but rarely at sub-national levels. Consequently, main aim of the paper is to explore trends in non-marital births at lower spatial level in Serbia using appropriate spatial autocorrelation statistics. Besides, it was of particular interest to inspect developments of this SDT indicator in Serbia with respect to other former communist countries given known skepticism relating to the diffusion of the process to the East. Even if the share of non-marital births has been raised from 8% in 1950 to about 24% in 2011, the position of Serbia as regards this indicator has changed downwards in the European context during the last 60 years. From the regional aspect, we show that east Serbia stands quite distinctively out from the rest of the country in terms of both highest share of non-marital births (>50% in most municipalities) and its recent rise. The local Moran’s I statistics of the indicator for the period between the census years of 2002 and 2011 denoted two clusters which represent two distinctively different areas of the country: more developed west including the largest urban centers (the lowest share of non-marital births and its change over the period) and less developed east (highest share of non-marital births and its highest increase). This is much in line with findings relating to SDT in most of post-socialist societies in Europe in the sense that higher shares of non-marital births refer mainly to pre-marital cohabitations or single mothers and are more common among persons at lower social strata due to rationally developed strategies in overcoming structural risks associated with family change in low fertility regime.

About timing and dynamics of second demographic transition in Serbia, recent research brings diverse findings, mostly based on regional divergence of demographic trends in Serbia. These differences are mainly caused by the differential natural population changes. Second demographic transition in European society was studied using different socio-demographic indicators, e.g. fertility decline, impact of mortality on fertility, marital postponement, non-marital fertility, partner relationships, changing household forms… But still, only minor numbers of paper take into consideration sub-national level of this demographic process. Due to this finding, main aim of the paper is to analyze and explore non-marital birth at sub-national level in Serbia as a country of former communist regimes. For the purpose of this research percentage of births outside marriage (BOM) was calculated. Both the global and local Moran’s I statistics have been calculated in order to investigate regional differences in country. Row data on of births was obtained from the Statistical Office of Republic of Serbia covering period from mid of 20th century until the beginning of 21st century.

The share of non-marital births has been raised from 8% in 1950 to about 24% in 2011. Concerning to the share of non-marital births, the position of Serbia has changed downwards compared with European regions during the last 60 years. Since the late 1950s and during the 1960s the share was stable around 12%, putting Serbia just behind Iceland and Austria in 1960 (12.2), and behind Iceland, Sweden, Estonia and Austria in 1970 (11.8). The share of non-marital births was about the same in 1968 and 1988, while in between it experienced a smaller drop induced primarily by the emergence of the baby-boom echo generations, which accordingly affected the number of marital births lowering the share of non-marital births. The significant rise of the births outside marriage started in the late 1980s, almost in the same time as it was registered in most of other former socialist countries.

Regarding to the regional differences, analysis in this research showed that Eastern Serbia region is quite distinctively out from the rest of the country in terms of the percentage of births outside marriage, as the percentages higher than 30 were recorded in almost all municipalities there, of which 11 experienced the percentage even higher than 40 in 2002. On the other side, 71 of 161 municipalities in the country had BOM lower than 20 percent. In 2011, the observed spatial polarization became even more pronounced – the rise of BOM in eastern Serbia compared with its stagnation in southwestern Serbia (9 municipalities with below 10). Overall, the increase of BOM throughout the country is obvious during the period. The range of the indicator widened, from 7 to 62 percent in 2011, particularly on account of the higher end; the number of municipalities with BOM below 20 dropped to 50, while number of those with share of births outside marriage higher than 40 percent reached 29, of which 13 with the share higher than 50. Only 20 municipalities experienced decline of BOM between 2002 and 2011, while the strongest drops were localized in southwestern area characterized by the lowest values of the indicator. Even 23 municipalities experienced rise of BOM higher than 50 percent.

Global Moran’s I = 0.078 (Z = 2.818, p < 0.006) for the BOM (threshold radius h = 40 km) indicates certain degree of clustered spatial patterns with statistical significance. It should be noted that the share of BOM of around or below 20 percent was recorded in the largest cities of the country regardless of their geographic location, while only five urban centers (all in eastern Serbia) experienced BOM higher than 30 percent. The local Moran’s I statistics for BOM denoted two clusters which represent two distinctively different areas (east and west in relation to the main road corridor) regarding percentage difference in the share of non-marital births between 2002 and 2011. The one refers to the largest urban centers in the more developed west characterized by the lowest share of BOM and its change over the period including central urban zones of the Belgrade City, while the other points to the municipalities in the less developed east with highest share of BOM and its highest increase.

Main reason for current trends in non-marital births in Serbia could be found in pre-marital cohabitations. During the 1950s and 1960s, people were expected to marry first and then to build family and to have children. Concerning to this, a significant number of birth outside of marriage were kept as secret. Today, non-marital childbearing could be characterized as commonly behavior and significant number of birth occurs to cohabitation couples or to mothers who are single.

Presented in Session 1235: Posters