1. What are the most common data sources for calculating fertility rates? What
are some particular data issues when considering fertility? Why do we compute
fertility rates as children per woman? Why not per man? Why not per family?
2. Define quantum and tempo effects with respect to fertility. If we do not consider both, how might our measures of fertility be biased? (I.e. Quantum only? Tempo only?)
3. To what extent might quantum and tempo effects affect socio-economic strata differently?
4. Why might non-college graduates be more likely to remain childless if they have not begun childbearing by the age of 30?
5. What are the socio-political consequences to diverging fertility? Demographic consequences? Geographic consequences?
6. What assumptions do Bongaarts and Feeney make when constructing their tempo-adjusted fertility rate? How strong are these assumptions? Given these assumptions, how useful are tempo-adjusted fertility rates in helping us understand observed cohort fertility patterns? What are the limits to tempo-adjusted fertility rates? Are non-tempo-adjusted rates still useful? In what way?
7. Bongaarts and Feeney make the case that it is essential to control for tempo effects when assessing fertility. However, Kohler et al suggest that there may be an interaction between tempo (postponement) and quantum effects on fertility. Discuss.
8. Kohler et al. suggested rectangularization of fertility patterns in the lowest-low fertility countries. Is it possible that the pattern causes sex-ratio imbalance in countries where son preference is prevalent?
9. Kohler et al. proposed the postponement transition. However, as Caldwell (1976) pointed out, demographic transition postulates that other countries will follow the European pattern eventually. Will African and Asian countries go through demographic transition, second demographic transition, and postponement transition? If so, is there any possibility of structural shift that Preston argued?
10. Often fertility research stresses the socio-economic and demographic similarities between countries with lowest-low fertility. However, Kohler et al. point to the heterogeneity of lowest-low fertility countries in Southern and Eastern Europe. What differences do the authors identify? Are the mechanisms through which these socio-economic and demographic differences affect fertility unique to the two regions? Are there similarities between the mechanisms of the two regions? (Some examples to consider: Labor market characteristics, pursuit of higher education, mean age of childbearing, etc.)
11. Most research on lowest-low fertility seems to focus on Western countries. However, East Asian countries such as South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan also have very low level of fertility. Is context that caused low fertility in East Asian countries the same as in European countries? Is there any difference?
12. Explain Kohler et al’s concept of social feedback effects (indirect effects). The authors suggest that marriage is one such social feedback mechanism. Do you agree? Could marriage have both indirect (social feedback) and direct effects on fertility?
13. What is a role that gender equity play in declining fertility? What about paternal leave policies? U.S. has harsh parental leave policies (unpaid up to 12 weeks per year, only 45% of employees are covered, and most of those covered by the policy can not afford to take it because it is unpaid) compared with European countries (most of European countries have paid parental leave policies although length and monetary compensation vary by country). Yet, U.S. has higher fertility than European countries. What is the reason for this paradox? Can McDonald’s theory of equity contribute to our understanding of these differences?
14. What is Easterlin’s fertility hypothesis? There is little evidence for the hypothesis in the United States since the 1980s. Is there evidence for an application of Easterlin’s hypothesis in lowest-low fertility countries?
15. What role can social policy play in raising (lowering) fertility rates? Why might policy makers have an interest in higher (lower) fertility rates?
16. Foster (2000) argued that there is biological predisposition for nurturing behavior among humans. Do you agree with Foster’s notion?
17. United States has higher level of fertility compared with European countries. Why is it different? What is effect of immigration on relatively high fertility level in the U. S.?
18. Is there any association between low fertility and population aging?