Allegiance and Alliance: Low Fertility in the Long Shadow of World War II

Alexander Weinreb, University of Texas at Austin
Jenna Johnson-Hanks, University of California, Berkeley

Viewing comparative fertility trends through a prism of World War II (WWII) alliances, an odd pattern emerges. The members of the Tripartite Pact—Italy, Germany, and Japan—have among the lowest fertility rates in the world, while the countries that led the Allies at the end of World War II—Great Britain, the USA, and France—are outliers for their high fertility. This paper argues that this association, which began to emerge in the late 1970s, is the product of specific cultural and institutional responses to the war. They affected both family policy but also individual-level schema that included attitudes to both the state and to children. Empirical support for our arguments is provided in analyses of multiple rounds of World Values Survey data. Our overall conclusion is that a coherent model of low fertility must be embedded in a comprehensive theory of social action that, in turn, is rooted in political history.

  See paper

Presented in Session 40: Low Fertility