Gender in the Investigation and Politics of ‘Low’ Fertility
In this review of research on gender and low fertility, I develop three main categories: (1) studies seeking to explain why fertility is low; (2) studies on the efficacy of fertility-related policies; and (3) critical feminist studies that analyze discourses surrounding low fertility and fertility-related policy. I provide examples of each to illustrate how researchers interested in fertility use the concept of gender and to what end. I suggest that by repeatedly asking why fertility is so low and examining possible factors that prevent people from having children, demographic studies often implicitly reinforce the notion that low fertility is undesirable. More critical work points us in different directions, revealing how pronatalist policies – and the discourses surrounding such policies – may have deleterious effects on gender equity. Finally, I discuss work that asks different questions, such as how demographic trends may contribute to shaping state policies and/or other gendered structures. I conclude that future research should analyze how demographic trends and patterns are both shaped by and also shape gender.
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