Fertility Behaviour of Minorities in Eastern and Central Europe

Zsolt Speder, HDRI
Laura Szabó, Hungarian Demographic Research Institute
Igor Kiss, Doctoral School of Demography and Sociology, Pécs University
Branislav Sprocha, INFOSTAT Demographic Research Centre Slovakia

Haug et al. (1998, 2000), who analysed fertility of minorities (the Hungarians in Romania and Slovakia; the Swedes in Finland; the Italian in Switzerland, the Roman Catholics in Northern Ireland, the Roma in some ECE countries), highlighted the convergence of the fertility patterns of the European minorities on the one hand, and the lower level of fertility of minorities as compared to the majority on the other hand. Courbage (1998) analysing the situation in the 90s also found, that the Hungarian minorities had lower fertility than the majority in both Romania and Slovakia. However, Spéder (2010) did not find considerable differences in the fertility of the Hungarian minority and the majority population in Romania.

Our question is how the minority position explains the variation in the minorities’ fertility behaviour, this position being closely related to the socio-economic, cultural and institutional characteristics of minorities and countries the minority population live at. We compare the fertility behaviour of Hungarians, Slovaks, Romanians, Serbs and Roma minorities living in Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and Serbia by using disaggregated individual data from the 2011 National Censuses. We also check the fertility patterns by educational background and geographical concentration. According to our calculations, the average number of children per women cohorts of Hungarian, Slovakian, Romanian and Serb minorities do not differ significantly from the majority cohorts’ fertility from the countries of origin. The only exception is the fertility of the Roma women: they have consistently higher fertility than the majority population in all countries. However, there are differences by cohorts, education and residential proximity in this respect.

Based on these results we believe that the societal transition after ’89 has had such a strong effect that, except the Roma population, it overrides the minority status effect on fertility behaviour.

Minorities are still significant components of theEastern and Central European populations. Many of them have an old and establishedminority status, while others are more or less discriminated and isolated. Itis common to them that they only partly emerged from migration. They came intoexistence within different historical contexts after World Wars and after thecollapse of communism when old countries have disappeared and new ones emerged.Group of people previously in majority position changed their status into aminority one, and vice versa. What consequences had all these changes on thedemography of these minorities? How does their fertility pattern relate todayto the fertility behaviour of the majority population? And how thisrelationship is influenced by the different degrees of assimilation of minoritiesin different areas of life?

A European analysis was carried out in the nineties focusingon the demography of minorities (Haug et al 1998, 2000).[1] The summary highlighted notonly the convergence of the fertility patterns of the European minorities, but alsotheir lower level of fertility as compared to the majority population (Compton2000), i.e. that the Hungarian minority has lower fertility than themajority in both Romania and Slovakia (Courbage 1998). However, Spéder(2010) comparing three societies in two countries (the Hungarians inHungary, Hungarians in Romania and Romanians in Romania) did not findsignificant differences in the fertility behaviour: the fertility of theHungarian minority from Romania was not lower than that of the Romanianmajority. If our goal is to get a conducive insight into the determinants ofthe minorities’ fertility, we should involve in the analysis differentsubcultures of them and look at their fertility behaviour as social behaviourand social process (Goldscheider and Uhlenberg, 1969).

Within the general framework of the theories ofassimilation, the hypotheses of migrants’ fertility could be beneficial andapplied in the analysis of minorities’ fertility. The subculture hypothesisfocuses on cultural differences between minorities and majority, when the acculturationprocess has stopped in a particular sphere of life (Goldscheider andUhlenberg 1969, Sly 1970, Sobotka 2008, Lichter et al 2012,Wilson 2017). The adaptation hypothesis is closely related to positionswithin the formal socio-economic structure as it is addressed by the structuralassimilation hypothesis (Day 1984, Goldscheider and Uhlenberg1969, Sly 1970, Heckmann 1983, Hornberg and Brüggemann2013). The minority-group-status hypothesis addresses power relationshipsbetween minority and majority (Goldsheider and Uhlenberg 1969, Ritchey1975, Chabé-Ferret and Ghidi 2013).

Our interest is to improve our knowledge on minorities’fertility in Europe, to explore how does the fertility pattern of historicalethnic and national minorities with their very specific culturalcharacteristics and living in different Eastern and Central European countriesare related to the fertility behaviour of the majority population? What are themain determinants for the differences, and if these differences could beexplained by the different degrees of cultural, structural, social or identificationalassimilation (Esser 2001)?

Leading by these questions we compared the fertilitybehaviour of Hungarians, Slovaks, Romanians, Serbs and Roma minorities fromHungary, Slovakia, Romania and Serbia by using disaggregated individual datafrom 2011 National Censuses. Minorities are identified in a voluntary,self-declared way in the censuses. Fertility indicators for different birthcohorts (period TFR 2010, cohort fertility, ratio of childless women) arecomputed from the compulsory question on the number of liveborn children ofwomen.

Our outcomes harmonize with Spéder (2010) results.We found that the cohort fertility of Hungarian, Slovakian, Romanian and Serbminorities do not differ significantly from the majority populations’ ratewithin the selected countries, regardless of birth cohorts. The only exceptionare the Roma minority women’s averages: they are consistently higher in all countriesthan all other averages (Table 1). However, controlling by education, theresults show that the low educated Roma women have indeed significantly morechildren in average than low educated majority women; but Roma and majoritywomen with high school education do not differ significantly in their fertilitybehaviour. Additionally, when the share of Roma population in its residential areais very low or very high, its fertility indicators and the majoritypopulation’s ones are converging to each other (Graph 1). As the Romapopulation seems to be standing out in terms of population processes, it worthto be analysed their fertility behaviour separately considering theinterrelated effect on it of the minority status, social status, regionaldistribution, and majority-minority relationship.


[1] The references are at author.

Presented in Session 1167: Fertility