The absence of post-war baby boom in Estonia: societal shock or early consolidation of the two-child norm?

Allan Puur, Tallinn University
Martin Klesment, Tallinn University

Recently a scholarly interest has developed towards the mid-20th century baby boom that occurred in some Western countries. There are several explanations, attributing the temporary fertility recuperation to economic growth that followed the war, relative cohort size, female labour force participation rates, or new labour-saving household products. In this study, we investigate the Estonian case which might be interesting for several reasons. Although Estonia belongs to the group of countries that shared the West-European marriage pattern and early fertility transition, the post-WWII fertility trend appears markedly different from Western European countries that experienced the baby boom in the post-war decades. Compared to other forerunners of fertility transition, Estonian fertility remained below replacement level in the 1950s and most of the 1960s. In order to understand this peculiar trend, we pose a question whether the low post-WWII fertility level is a continuation of the interwar trends or rather a result of a large-scale societal shock (Sovietisation of society). We seek to analyse the factors that shape aggregate fertility levels (the proportion of never-married, stability of marital unions, level of childlessness, timing of childbearing, and progression to higher order births). We also pay attention to differentials in educational attainment and social status. It may be hypothesised that stable and low post-war fertility emerged due to quick propagation of two-child norm across educational and social groups. From the point of societal shock hypothesis, we expect that the completed fertility level would be in particular affected among the highly educated strata and elite who can be regarded a politically vulnerable groups. We use census data (1979, 1989, and 2000) and retrospective survey data (FFS and GGS) to study these questions.

  See extended abstract

Presented in Session 22: Special thematic session on demographic transition: processes and consequences, 19-20th century