Explaining the Decline in Fertility Rates in Post-War Italy

Rychlak, Susanna (2014) Explaining the Decline in Fertility Rates in Post-War Italy. Undergraduate thesis, under the direction of Dr. Susan Grayzel from History, University of Mississippi.

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The aim of this thesis is to examine the decline in fertility rate in post-war Italy and identify its causes. Fertility rate in Italy dropped dramatically across 1970-2010 in a stark departure from the nation’s previous reproductive patterns. This has led to an increasingly aging population, and holds important implications for Italy’s future. This study demonstrates that there has been a meaningful shift in cultural values that has led to fertility decline in Italy since 1970. In order to provide historical context for the importance of this cultural shift, the thesis first presents the Italian culture and familial structure of the twentieth century. Scholarly writings, fascist policies, and Church teachings are used to demonstrate the traditional family ideology and pro-natalist attitudes that permeated Italian culture in the first half of the twentieth century. Following this, the thesis delves into a more comprehensive study of the 1960s and 1970s, the decades that mark the beginning of fertility decline in Italy. It thus examines the Italian women’s movement and the changes it spearheaded. Feminist texts, changes in legislation, and popular survey data are employed to reveal shifting values taking place during this time period. This evidence illuminates Italian women’s changing attitudes towards family and gender relations and indicates that the 1960s and 1970s witnessed the creation of new cultural values that would in turn influence Italian women’s choices across the next four decades. The thesis then provides an analysis of three factors in contemporary Italian society and their relationship to fertility rate. An investigation of Italian women’s new attitudes and behaviors in the realms of labor force participation, marriage, and division of unpaid labor help to demonstrate the underlying causes of fertility decline: devaluation of the traditional family structure. An exploration of continued structural barriers for women in these areas demonstrates the ideological mismatch that has pushed Italian women into an either/or relationship between a traditional family and personal autonomy. Therefore, changing patterns in these realms are shown to spring from the same cause that this thesis postulates has led to fertility decline in Italy: a meaningful shift in cultural values.

Item Type: Thesis (Undergraduate)
Creators: Rychlak, Susanna
Student's Degree Program(s): B.A. in International Studies
Thesis Advisor: Dr. Susan Grayzel
Thesis Advisor's Department: History
Institution: University of Mississippi
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DG Italy
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
Depositing User: Ms Susanna Rychlak
Date Deposited: 09 May 2014 19:16
Last Modified: 09 May 2014 19:16
URI: http://thesis.honors.olemiss.edu/id/eprint/187

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