Toward an unwanted dividend? Fertility decline and the North–South divide in Italy, 1952–2018
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Fertility, a key process shaping long-term population dynamics, has reflected demographic transitions and responds—more or less rapidly—to economic downturns. Assuming a non-neutral role of space on birth rates, the present study investigates the spatio-temporal evolution (1952–2018) of total fertility rate (TFR) at regional scale in Italy, a country with intense decline of births and enlarged socioeconomic divides between the wealthiest Northern regions and the most disadvantaged Southern regions. A progressive reduction of the traditional North–South fertility divide was observed in Italy since the 1980s with a rapid decline of TFR. Results of descriptive statistics and time series analysis indicate that regional fertility in Italy was increasingly associated with economic downturns. Considering the spatial response of birth rates to economic expansions and recessions, heterogeneous regional fertility trends underlie more individualistic behaviors that reflect a different propensity to childbearing in recent times. With both expansion and recession, fertility rates in Northern Italy—thanks to the contribution of internal and international migrations—were responding more rapidly to economic downturns than in Southern Italy—a disadvantaged region with a more stagnant population, emigration and aging, reverting the typical framework of the 1950s.
KeywordsEconomic downturns Spatial clustering Total fertility rate Mediterranean Europe
Authors did not received any research fund.
Authors contributed equally to the manuscript.
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