I. Second Demographic Transition/Family Change
1) What is it?

2) What are the most important factors accounting for the second demographic transition? What are some alternative explanations for the second demographic transition that would lead us to believe that these demographic changes are ephemeral?

3) Racial differences in family change trends?

4) Educational differences in forces, trends and consequences.

5) Consequences of these changes for:
a. Children?
b. Husband-wife relations?
c. Intergenerational relations & elderly?

II. Assessing Family Change: Popenoe & Critiques
1) Popenoe’s argument hinges on the definition of family—what is it? Are there weaknesses to his argument? What are the major critiques?

2) How compelling is Popenoe’s argument? How compelling are each of the critiques?

3) Can an assessment of changes in the family be “unbiased?” Can we truly be neutral on the subject?

4) Policy implications: Debates aside, if we can agree that changes in the family have negative implications for children and adults, what sorts of policies can we imagine to ease this distress?

III. Other topics? Readings that were unclear?


1. All of these readings describe dramatic changes in family behavior that have occurred over the past 30 years in industrialized societies (with particular emphasis on the U.S.). How likely is it that similar changes will be observed in settings that are now rapidly industrializing? Are there some changes that are more (less) likely to be observed elsewhere? Are certain regions (countries) more likely than others to experience the changes observed in the West? Why or why not?

2. Let's think for a minute about the gap between theory and data that often plagues demographic studies of family behavior (or social science research, general). What are some of the problems that we face in trying to evaluate alternative explanations for a given outcome using limited data. Bumpass gives example of educational attainment and women's marriage timing.

3. How should we go about trying to understand/explain "across the board" changes in family behavior, e.g., increasing divorce in U.S., later marriage in Japan? By "across the board," I mean change that is similar across social and demographic characteristics.

4. What are some of the major consequences of divorce that demographers/sociologists are interested in trying to understand?

5. What are some of the major implications of the increasing prevalence of cohabitation that demographers/sociologists are interested in trying to understand?

6. Why does the emergence of cohabitation as a common event in people's lives present a difficult challenge in demographic research?

7. A remedial clarification question. What exactly is meant by the life table estimates such as "roughly 60% of marriages are projected to end in divorce" or "70% of black women will have a child while unmarried if recent levels persist" (p.488, Bumpass)?

8. Bumpass discusses (either directly or indirectly) the importance of diffusion, feedback mechanisms, and reciprocal causality in studies of family behavior. These are all issues we will return to repeatedly. Based on Bumpass' discussion, how do all of these relate to explanations of increasing divorce? Also, how are these important for understanding how increasing divorce may influence other demographic behaviors?

9. Like Bumpass, Popenoe stresses the importance of feedback mechanisms (e.g., as divorce increases, it becomes more acceptable leading to further increases). This makes a lot of sense, but is extremely difficult to model
- what are some possible ways that we might seek to control for diffusion?

9. Popenoe is really saying more or less the same thing that Bumpass says in his PAA address. Why do you think Popenoe takes so much heat for his paper while Bumpass doesn't take any for saying essentially the same thing?

10. The life course approach is a tremendously important tool in family demography/sociology. How would you summarize the key components of the life course approach?

11. What are some of the key differences between the life course approach to the family and the family cycle approach?

12. Based on your reading, what distinguishes the "economics of the family" (i.e., neoclassical economic approach to studying family behavior) from that of say, demography or sociology?

13. What are the central elements of the economic theory of marriage and divorce?

15: How might trends in cohabitation help us to understand trends in marriage, childbearing, women's labor force participation, and divorce? That is, how are these trends interrelated?