Volume 44 - Article 46 | Pages 1115–1132  

Attitudinal and behavioural indices of the second demographic transition: Evidence from the last three decades in Europe

By Zuzanna Brzozowska


Background: The second demographic transition (SDT), which links ideational changes with demographic developments, is one of the most prominent and debated theoretical frameworks in family demography. Yet, its operationalisations as composite sets of measures remain unevaluated.

Objective: We evaluate two most frequently used SDT indices: attitudinal and behavioural. We assess how strongly they have been linked to each other in the last three decades in Europe and test their consistency over time.

Methods: Using four waves of the European Values Study and publicly available demographic indicators for 23 European countries, we reconstruct, update, and evaluate the SDT indices. The attitudinal index measures postmaterialism, gender-egalitarianism, and religiosity. The behavioural index includes indicators of postponement, nonmarital childbearing, marriage, and divorce.

Results: The correlation between the attitudinal and behavioural indices is positive, but its strength varies substantially over time. The indices’ strongest correlates are indicators of postponement (demographic index) along with gender-egalitarian views and the importance of leisure (attitudinal index). Marriage and divorce rates together with attitudes towards the institution of marriage are least consistent with the indices.

Conclusions: Both indices are inconsistent internally and temporally. Some of the included indicators do not fit the SDT assumptions of stage-like one-directional development. Consequently, conclusions about the SDT based on cross-national data for a single year may be misleading.

Contribution: We show that the ideational and demographic changes posited by the SDT should not be treated as a package. Their operationalisation should take into account their multidimensionality. To facilitate future research, we provide the ready-to-use indicator and index values used in the analysis.

Author's Affiliation

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