Volume 30 - Article 22 | Pages 641–670

Social networks and fertility

By Laura Bernardi, Andreas Klärner

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Date received:01 Mar 2013
Date published:06 Mar 2014
Word count:7272
Keywords:fertility, industrialized countries, social networks
Weblink:You will find all publications in this Special Collection “Theoretical Foundations of the Analysis of Fertility” at http://www.demographic-research.org/special/16/


Background: The fields of demography, sociology, and socio-psychology have been increasingly drawing on social network theories, which posit that individual fertility decision-making depends in part on the fertility behavior of other members of the population, and on the structure of the interactions between individuals. After reviewing this literature, we highlight the benefits of taking a social network perspective on fertility and family research.

Objective: We review the literature that addresses the extent to which social mechanisms, such as social learning, social pressure, social contagion, and social support, influence childbearing decisions.

Methods: We review the most recent contributions of the social networks approach for the explanation of fertility dynamics in contemporary post-industrial societies.

Conclusions: We find that all of the social mechanisms reviewed influence the beliefs and norms individuals hold regarding childbearing, their perceptions of having children, and the context of opportunities and constraints in which childbearing choices are made. The actual impact of these mechanisms on fertility tempo and quantum strongly depends on the structure of social interaction.

Author's Affiliation

Laura Bernardi - Université de Lausanne, Switzerland [Email]
Andreas Klärner - Johann Heinrich von Thünen-Institut, Germany [Email]

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