CAIRN-INT.INFO : International Edition

1Whereas, until very recently, the countries of Southern Europe were considered as countries of relatively high fertility, today, their fertility is equal to, or even below that of the rest of Europe.

2Before attempting an analysis of this new situation, we thought it necessary to go back several decades. It would appear that, looking at the situation in this perspective, the similarities between these countries and those of the more industrialized parts of Europe were more important and widespread than would have been thought, at least in the recent past. The current decrease in fertility then appears much less surprising.

Families formed after the Second World War

3The change from high fertility to low and planned fertility, inherent to the demographic transition, took place slightly later in the Southern European countries than in the rest of the industrialized countries (Festy, 1983). It began in the latter around 1870-1880, but only started in the South after the beginning of the present century : first in Italy, then in Spain, and later in Greece and Portugal.

4The behaviour of women who reached childbearing age during the post-World-War period is still characterized by this delay, since their completed family size varied from 2.3 children per woman in Italy to 2.9 in Portugal, with Spain and Greece in the middle (Table 1) [1].

Table 1

Completed cohort fertility for the 1921-1925 birth cohorts (per woman)*

Table 1
Spain 2.56 Greece 2.5-2.7* Italy 2.30 Portugal 2.91

Completed cohort fertility for the 1921-1925 birth cohorts (per woman)*

* Cf. note (1) in the text.

5These differences in average family size do, of course, correspond to differences in the distribution of families by number of children. The data available for three countries – Spain, Italy and Portugal – provide a reasonably accurate picture of the situation, in spite of their heterogeneity [2]. We present these results, as well as the distribution of families for the older cohorts, in Table 2, in order to place into context the behavioural pattern of the cohorts which began to form their families immediately after the war. We look first at this latter group. In Italy, the percentage of childless couples was higher than in Spain or Portugal. There were also fewer large families : those with six or more children accounted for only 6 % of the total. Finally, the largest group consisted of couples with one or two children, which together made up almost half of the total. These figures suggest that contraceptive practice in Italy was much more widespread than in either Portugal or Spain, without, however, reaching the levels observed in the inter-war marriage cohorts in some European countries [3].

6But there remained differences between the two Iberian countries. In Portugal, there were many more large families than in Spain (17.8 % compared with 11.4 %), which agrees with the difference noted in the average number of children. A more surprising result is that the proportion of very small families – childless couples or those with only one child – was higher in Portugal (29.3 % compared with 20.1 % in Spain) [4]. This was not a new phenomenon since it had already been noted for couples formed before the Second World War. It would therefore seem that Malthusian behaviour patterns were adopted at an early stage by a segment of the Portuguese population, unless there were other factors which came into play : emigration, for example, which, by imposing long periods of separation on a number of young couples, often resulted in one-child families [5]. Whatever the reason, these contrasting behavioural patterns resulted in families of intermediate size, in particular those with two or three children, being relatively much less frequent than in Spain (36.8 % and 47 % respectively).

Table 2

Distribution of families by number of live-born children*

Table 2
Number of children Spain women married in Portugal women married around * Italy women married in before 1941 1941-1945 1946-1950 1936-1940 1941-1945 1946-1950 1926-1930 1936-1940 1946-1950 0 7.4 7.2 7.0 11.7 10.9 9.1 13.6 12.9 13.3 1 8.9 12.3 13.1 16.4 17.8 20.2 13.9 15.8 19.9 2 18.2 24.1 26.1 19.1 20.5 22.4 17.5 24.2 28.4 3 17.8 20.3 20.9 14.2 14.3 14.4 15.4 17.8 17.6 4 14.7 14.0 13.6 10.3 9.9 9.5 12.4 11.5 9.5 5 10.7 8.8 7.9 7.7 7.0 6.7 8.9 7.0 5.0 6 + 22.3 13.4 11.4 20.6 19.7 17.8 18.5 10.9 6.3 Total 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 Average number per couple 3.80 3.19 3.06 3.44 3.37 3.26 3.33 2.77 2.39

Distribution of families by number of live-born children*

* These are, in fact, women born in 1911-15, 1916-20 and 1921-25, respectively. Cf. note 2 in the text.
Sources : — For Spain and Portugal, 1970 censuses. — For Italy, A. Santini (1974) for cohorts 1926-1930 and M. Ventisette (1986) for later cohorts.

7The parity progression ratios, shown in Figure 1, clarify our remarks above and provide a picture of the stages of family building. The British cohort of 1925 has also been included, in order to illustrate the Malthusian behaviour adopted in certain European industrial countries during the inter-war period. The three countries, at the end of the Second World War, were in the midst of a process of fertility decline which resulted in parity progression ratios from the first to the second birth (a1) and onwards falling, and in the descending and concave curves which are characteristic of Malthusian populations. The change in Italy, where behavioural patterns were most like those in the reference population of Great Britain, is clearcut. As regards Spain and Portugal, the gulf separating them can be better appreciated. The proportion of couples stopping after their first child was much higher in the latter country : 78 % (a1) had a second child in Portugal, 86 % in Spain. The proportions who proceeded from a second to a third child were similar in both countries. On the other hand, after the third birth, the proportion of Portuguese couples who moved from one family size to the next (a3, a4,…) increased greatly in Portugal : as if a stronger selection during the earlier stages of marriage in that country, resulted in higher fertility among those who remained.

Figure 1

Parity progression ratios of families formed just after the Second World War in Italy, Spain and Portugal. In Great Britain, families formed around 1925

Figure 1

Parity progression ratios of families formed just after the Second World War in Italy, Spain and Portugal. In Great Britain, families formed around 1925

I – Trends between 1950 and 1975

Completed cohort fertility

8Completed cohort fertility continued the decrease which had begun amongst the older generations, but at varying rates and to varying degrees. The most significant drop occurred in Portugal, where completed fertility decreased by about 0.7 children per woman, according to our estimates, within 25 single-year cohorts, to reach approximately 2.2 children amongst the women born in 1946-1950 (Table 3). It was more difficult to measure for Greek women because of the lack of accuracy in the data relating to the beginning of the century, but it could not have been less and was almost certainly larger than 0.5 children per woman, an indication of its speed since it was almost complete amongst women born around 1931-1935. This trend, which was probably related to the difficult circumstances in the country which continued for many years even after the war, is also reflected in total period fertility which remained steady, up to the mid-1960s, at a level fluctuating around 2.1 to 2.3 children per woman, much lower than in other countries.

9In Italy and Spain at the beginning of this period, there was an interruption to the decline, before it resumed. In the former country, completed fertility remained more or less stationary between the 1921-25 and 1931-35 cohorts, before falling by 0.3 children per woman over the next fifteen cohorts or so. In Spain, the halt was much more significant because completed family size began by increasing slightly, but continuously, up to the 1936-40 cohorts, before dropping again, almost as quickly as in Portugal. In other respects, the recovery of fertility, although it was moderate and occurred later, was similar to that in most of the industrialized countries at the same time.

Table 3

Completed cohort fertility (per woman)*

Table 3
Year of birth Spain Greece Italy Portugal England-Wales FRG 1921-25 2.56 2.5-2.7 2.30 2.91 2.10 1.92 1926-30 2.58 2.25 2.80 2.26 2.09 1931-35 2.63 2.27 2.71 2.39 2.20 1936-40 2.65 2.02 * 2.17 2.63 2.38 2.06 1941-45 2.50 2.01 * 2.11 2.40 2.24 1.82 1946-50 2.30 2.00 * 2.00 2.20 2.08 1.72

Completed cohort fertility (per woman)*

* Women born, respectively, around 1935-36, 1940-41 and 1945-46.
Sources : — Spain and Portugal, censuses and natural population movement. — Italy, P. Festy (1979) for the cohorts 1921 to 1935 ; J.L. Rallu (1983) for later cohorts. — Greece, estimates based on population movement. — England-Wales and FRG, natural population movement.

10Overall, the estimates for the later cohorts considered – those reaching the ages when fertility was highest during the first half of the 1970s – suggest that the gap between the extreme values was reduced by half, from 0.6 to about 0.3 per woman. At the same time, they did, of course, come closer to those in the Western European countries : Italy and Greece, with 2.0 children per woman, are now to be found in the group that contains most of the latter countries, while Spain and Portugal, with roughly 2.3 and 2.2 children per woman, respectively, are not very far away.

11During the period studied, completed fertility naturally depended on the reproductive behaviour within marriage, but also, to a lesser degree, on the proportion of women who married in a given cohort and on the significance of fertility outside marriage. Before considering the behaviour of married couples, we look at these two factors, the influence of which on trends in completed fertility, although very slight compared with the former factor, are not negligible.

Nuptiality and fertility outside marriage

12Apart from Greece, where celibacy was already very low, the proportion of women never married has decreased significantly over successive cohorts (Table 4). In this respect, the women in these countries have followed the movement in favour of marriage which was evident throughout Western Europe during the 1950s and 1960s and which resulted in a decline in the proportions never-married and a decrease in the age at first marriage. However, as we shall see, this movement in the Southern European countries was extended to the 1970s. Independently of any other factors, this had a favourable impact on fertility.

Table 4

Proportion (%) of never-married women at age 50

Table 4
Year of birth Spain Greece Italy Portugal 1921-25 11.7 6.5 13.8 13.5 1926-30 10.9 6.7 12.0 11.5 1931-35 9.1 6.2 9.4 9.5 1936-40 8.1 5.6 8.8 8.0 1941-45 8.0 5.5 8.0 7.0 1946-50 8.0 5.5 8.1 6.0

Proportion (%) of never-married women at age 50

Sources : — Spain and Portugal, as indicated for Table 3. — Italy, censuses and population movement. — Greece, P. Festy (1981) for the 1921-25 and 1926-30 cohorts : censuses and statistics of population movement for the following cohorts.
Figure 2

Illegitimacy ratio (per 1,000 live births) and illegitimacy rate (number of illegitimate births per 1,000 unmarried women aged from 15 to 49) since 1945

Figure 2

Illegitimacy ratio (per 1,000 live births) and illegitimacy rate (number of illegitimate births per 1,000 unmarried women aged from 15 to 49) since 1945

N.B. The figures used above are to be found in Tables 1 and 2 in the Annex.

13At the same time, however, another trend, in the reverse direction, was having an impact on extra-marital fertility, for reasons which were possibly not independent of the previous trend. From the end of the 1940s, at least, there has been a continuing decrease in the illegitimacy rates both in Portugal, a country where illegitimacy had for long been significant, and in Italy and Spain, where it had been much lower (Figure 2) ; even in Greece, where it had been almost negligible, there has been a drop, at least since the mid-1950s.

14This trend is confirmed, to a lesser extent, by the illegitimacy rate (ratio of illegitimate births to the number of unmarried women) which, unlike the previous index, is unaffected by variations in legitimate fertility and nuptiality. In Portugal, it dropped from 23 per 1,000 in 1951 to 15 per 1,000 in 1970 ; in Spain, from 7.3 per 1,000 to 2.8 per 1,000. In Italy, this decline was less marked and its duration shorter. In effect, a reversal of this tendency (to which we shall return later) occurred first in Italy, towards the end of the 1960s, then in Spain and Greece, and later in Portugal, with a lag of about ten years.

15Unlike previously, this movement differed from that in Western Europe : in some countries such as France or West Germany, there was a decline during the same period, while in others – England-Wales and the Scandinavian countries – the opposite was true. Moreover, a decline in illegitimate fertility does not necessarily mean that the number of conceptions outside marriage drops since, leaving abortion out of account, a certain number result in births after marriage. Thus, in France, between 1954 and 1968, the total number of births conceived outside marriage increased from 28.2 per 1,000 unmarried women to 35.8 per 1,000, and this was caused by increases in prenuptial conceptions.

16In the Southern countries, the drop in illegitimate fertility in the 1950s and 1960s may therefore have hidden, as it did in France, an increase in prenuptial conceptions. This increase which could have been partly responsible for the greater frequency of marriage at young ages, cannot, unfortunately, be checked, because the necessary data are not available.

The behaviour pattern of married couples

A general decline in the average number of births per marriage

17Trends in marital fertility show that the positive effect of the drop in celibacy on completed fertility prevailed over the negative effect of the drop in illegitimate fertility.

18In Portugal, the average number of estimated births per married woman aged 45-49 years dropped from 3.26 to 2.55 within 20 marriage cohorts, a decrease of 0.71 children per woman (Table 5), while completed fertility decreased by 0.51. In Italy, marital fertility, after stabilizing in the cohorts of marriages contracted between the end of the war and the mid-1950s, dropped from 2.38 children (1951-55 cohort) to 2.04 (1966-70 cohort), i.e., much more than the drop in completed fertility for more or less corresponding birth cohorts (2.30 (1921-25 cohort) to 2.11 (1941-45 cohort)).

19In Greece, after a rapid decline which resulted in the average number of births per marriage dropping from 2.4 (1955-56 cohort) to roughly 1.96 (1962-63 cohort), legitimate fertility then stabilized. The trends therefore appear to have been relatively close to those of general fertility, which is hardly surprising, given the stability of female celibacy in this country.

Table 5

Average number of births per marriage*

Table 5
Year of marriage Spain Greece Italy Portugal 1946-50 3.06 2.39 3.26 1951-55 2.99 2.42 * 2.38 3.20 1956-60 2.94 2.34 2.94 1961-65 2.85 1.96 * 2.19 2.86 1966-70 2.75 1.96 * 2.04 2.55

Average number of births per marriage*

* These are, respectively, the 1955-56, 1962-63 and 1967-68 cohorts.
Sources : — Spain and Portugal, as indicated for Table 3. — Italy, M. Ventisette (1986) for the 1946 to 1960 cohorts ; statistics of population movement for the later cohorts. — Greece, A. Monnier (1984) and statistics of population movement.

20In Spain, on the other hand, marital fertility did not increase again, unlike general fertility. As in Portugal, although to a lesser degree, the average number of children per marriage decreased steadily in successive cohorts. The drop in celibacy therefore largely compensated for the effects of trends in the reproductive behaviour of couples. From this point of view, the situation in this country differed less from that in either Italy or Portugal than the trends in general fertility would have appeared to indicate.

Similar changes in family building

21The decrease in average family size has resulted in two types of modification which are closely related in different countries (Figure 3). In the three countries for which the necessary data are available – Spain, Portugal and Italy – the proportion of families which continue to have children after their second birth declined rapidly, in accordance with previous trends ; on the other hand, more surprisingly, there were increases in births of lower orders in all three countries, similar to those experienced in the industrialized countries at the same time. In Portugal and Spain, there was an increase in the proportion of couples with at least one child (a0 reached a value of 0.95 for the later cohorts), and there was also a reversal of the declining trend in the proportion of those who continued to a second birth (a1). Although less significant in Portugal and occurring later, this reversal resulted in a widening of the difference between these two countries. In Italy, the progression ratio from first to second birth also increased, while the proportion of couples with at least one child hardly changed, except in the later cohorts, and remained at a lower level than in the other two countries.

Figure 3

Trends in parity progression ratios in marriage

Figure 3

Trends in parity progression ratios in marriage

Sources : Spain and Portugal, censuses of 1970 and 1981, as well as statistics of natural population movement. Italy, A. Santini (1974) and statistics of population movement.

22The data available for Greece are more restricted and less accurate [6], but they make it possible to ascertain that voluntary childlessness decreased, although at a later date, as in Italy. In the absence of significant changes in the proportion of women who never married (cf. Table 4), the proportion of those who had at least one child increased considerably, from 84 % in the cohorts born around 1940-41 (women who reached marriageable age and first maternity around 1960) to roughly 89 % for women born around 1950 (Table 6). It is more doubtful whether a1 also increased ; if it did, the increase must have occurred earlier and been of shorter duration.

Table 6

Greece, estimated parity progression ratios over generations

Table 6
Parity progression ratios Women born around : 1935-36 1940-41 1945-46 1950-51 a0 0.83 0.84 0.86 0.88-0.90 a1 0.88 0.90 0.88

Greece, estimated parity progression ratios over generations

23It is thus apparent that any delay in the secular decline of fertility in these countries has not prevented reductions in Malthusian behaviour patterns, including some which were particularly rare (childless couples in Spain, for example). On the other hand, there is no sign of a revival in third births, as in some European countries and in America, no doubt because the births of this order were still too numerous. At the very most, the decline in a2 has slowed down in Spain.

24In addition, we note that, even though extreme Malthusian behaviour patterns have become less frequent, some national characteristics have continued to prevail : the relatively low parity progression from first to second birth in Portugal, which co-exists with a high progression ratio from third to fourth births ; more childless couples in Italy than anywhere else ; and, finally, the very high progression ratio from first to second birth in Spain.

25The generally similar nature of the changes and the retention of some specific characteristics are obvious in the changes of family structure, which recall those that occurred in the remainder of Europe at the same time. Numbers of families with two and, to a lesser degree, those with three children increased (Table 7). Overall, they accounted for slightly over 63 % in Spain and Italy, and 56 % in Portugal. This increase was compensated by decreases both in the numbers of large families where the decline was general and significant, particularly in Italy ; and in the numbers of childless couples and one-child families except in Portugal, where the proportion of couples with only one child remained at a relatively high level (between 20 % and 21 %, or one-third higher than in Italy, and twice as high as Spain, in the marriage cohorts formed during the second half of the 1960s). Furthermore, Portugal differed from the other two countries in that the proportion of families with three children is higher, as was already true for the marriage cohorts of twenty years ago.

Table 7

Distribution of families by size

Table 7
Number of children Spain Italy Portugal Women married in 1946-50 1966-70 1946-50 1967-68 1946-50 1966-70 0 7.0 4.5 13.3 11.5 9.1 4.3 1 13.1 9.1 19.9 15.6 20.2 20.6 2 26.1 36.3 28.4 42.4 22.4 38.3 3 20.9 27.1 17.8 20.9 14.4 17.7 4 + 32.9 23.0 20.8 9.6 33.9 19.1 Total 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0

Distribution of families by size

Motherhood is occurring earlier

26The progressive disappearance of births of high orders has obviously reduced the average duration between marriage and the birth of children. We know that, in Italy – the only country in which statistics on births by order and by marriage duration for this period are available – a second factor has had an impact : in the cohorts of the 1950s and early 1960s, the interval between marriage and first and second births continued to decrease, thus reversing the trends of previous cohorts (Festy, 1983). Unfortunately, it is not known whether a similar movement occurred in the other two Mediterranean countries, although it is likely that, in Spain at least, the greater frequency of births of first and second orders was also accompanied by a reduction in the interval between these births and marriage.

27In any case, the decline in the age at motherhood was to a large extent due, in the four countries, to the progressive lowering of the age at which couples were formed. The decline in celibacy coincided everywhere with a drop in the average age of women at first marriage which was between 25 and 26 years for the 1921-1925 birth cohorts, and which dropped to 23 or 24 years in the cohorts born twenty years later (Table 8).

Table 8

Estimated average age of women at first marriage*

Table 8
Year of birth Spain Greece* Italy Portugal 1921-25 26.3 25.2 25.1 24.7 1926-30 26.3 25.2 24.8 1931-35 25.7 25.3 25.1 24.7 1936-40 25.2 24.6 24.4 1941-45 25.0 24.8 24.2 23.9 1946-50 24.5 23.9 23.7 23.2

Estimated average age of women at first marriage*

* Women born, respectively, around 1920, 1930, 1940 and 1945.
Sources : — Spain, A. Fernandez Cordon (1986) for the cohorts 1921 to 1935 ; censuses and statistics on population movement for later cohorts. — Italy, A. Santini (1974) for the 1921-25 cohorts ; statistics of population movement for later cohorts. — Greece, P. Festy (1981). — Portugal, censuses and statistics of population movement.

28Under the combined influence of these factors, the average age at motherhood has gradually decreased. Within a score of cohorts (1926-30 to 1946-50), it has declined by about 2.3 years in Portugal, 2.1 years in Italy, and 2.0 years in Spain (Table 9). The difference between Portugal and Italy has disappeared and the average age at motherhood is now practically the same : approximately 27 years. On the other hand, the relatively late age at motherhood in Spain has not changed. Age at marriage, which is higher for Spanish women (cf. Table 8), no doubt is one of the reasons for this.

Table 9

Estimated average age of women at motherhood*

Table 9
Year of birth Spain Greece* Italy Portugal 1921-25 30.2 29.0 29.2 29.8 1926-30 30.1 29.1 29.5 1931-35 29.8 28.5 28.9 28.9 1936-40 29.2 28.0 28.2 28.2 1941-45 28.7 27.5 27.5 27.8 1946-50 28.1 27.0 27.2

Estimated average age of women at motherhood*

* Figures for, respectively, the cohorts 1925, 1935, 1940 and 1945.
Sources : — Spain, as indicated for Table 7. — Italy, P. Festy (1979), for the 1921 to 1930 cohorts ; statistics of population movement for later cohorts. — Greece, statistics of population movement. — Portugal, A. Monnier (1981) for the cohorts 1921 to 1930 ; censuses and statistics on population movement for later cohorts.

II – Recent trends

29The decrease in annual total fertility indices, which has been evident since 1965, became steadily steeper in the four countries after the mid-1970s, first in Italy, in 1975, then in Spain (1977) and Portugal (1978) ; finally, in Greece from 1980 (Figure 4). The latest available estimates show that, in Italy, the value is one of the lowest in Europe : around 1.4 children per woman in 1985, while in Spain, Portugal and Greece respectively, the values were 1.73 (1984), 1.69 (1985) and 1.68 (1985). Within ten years, the Italian index fell by 0.8 points, those in Spain and Portugal fell by 1.1 and 0.8 respectively in eight years and, in Greece, by 0.6 in six years.

30It should be recalled at this point that the decline in European fertility, which commenced around 1965, has also been quite dramatic in several countries. In ten years, the annual index dropped from 2.86 children per woman to 1.79 in England and Wales, from 2.68 to 1.83 in Austria, from 2.84 to 1.93 in France, from 2.51 to 1.54 in West Germany, and so on. The unexpected size of this decline may be explained by the fact that the decrease in completed fertility coincided with a reversal of trends in the timing of fertility. On the heels of a continuous fall in the age at motherhood, which had lifted the period fertility indices during the 1950s and 1960s well above the real values of completed fertility, came a tendency to delay births within marriage which had the opposite effect. By accumulating these two effects, the period fertility indices provided a false and exaggerated picture of the actual changes in family size (F. Muñoz-Pérez, 1986).

Figure 4

Index of total fertility (per woman. See Table 1 in Annex)

Figure 4

Index of total fertility (per woman. See Table 1 in Annex)

31It is very likely that a similar movement in the timing of fertility is currently exaggerating the actual decline in family size in the Mediterranean countries. Because this is a recent occurrence, we cannot determine the relative importance of these two components with any degree of precision. Nevertheless, certain indices provide us with useful information on the current situation.

A combined decrease in nuptiality and marital fertility

32After exceeding cohort rates for fifteen to twenty years, period nuptiality rates have dropped considerably, like fertility rates (see Table 2 in Annex) [7]. As, in these countries, most births take place within marriage, it is certain that this decline in the formation of families has had an impact on the drop in general fertility. But how significant is it ? A comparison with marital fertility, that takes no account of variations in nuptiality, provides a preliminary answer to this question, to which we shall return when we consider first births. In Italy (Figure 5), it appears clearly that the predominant factor, at least up until 1981, was the decrease in marital fertility, which is not a recent phenomenon since it began during the mid-1960s [8]. Whilst the decline in fertility was largely caused by declining marital fertility, it nevertheless accelerated in 1975, because of changes in nuptiality. Until then, high nuptiality had had a favourable impact on overall fertility, compensating partially for the drop in marital fertility, which resulted in disparities in the two indices.

33Since 1975, the effect has been the reverse : the decline in nuptiality was added to that of marital fertility and this led to a decrease in overall fertility. These two different stages explain the point of inflection in the overall fertility curve in 1975.

34The Spanish data do not make it possible to go back as far, but they suggest a very similar situation to that in Italy. The main determinant is again the decline in marital fertility which, according to our estimates, appears to go as far back as the early 1970s at least, but which accelerated after 1977. From this date onwards, the effect of nuptiality was reversed, as it was in Italy two years earlier. It is the two simultaneous changes in trends – the formation of couples and births within marriage – which brought about the significant inflection in the curve of total fertility. But, overall, it was the behaviour of married couples that determined the extent of the decrease in both countries, at least up until 1982. After that date, the decline in nuptiality became more significant, while marital fertility acted as a brake to the decline of overall fertility, or even helped it to pick up again, as is suggested by some data relating to fertility by birth order, which we shall consider later.

Figure 5

Index of total fertility (per woman), legitimate fertility (per marriage) and nuptiality of first marriages (per woman)*

Figure 5

Index of total fertility (per woman), legitimate fertility (per marriage) and nuptiality of first marriages (per woman)*

* For cultural reasons, the number of marriages in Greece drops considerably during leap years, which also tends to disturb figures for the surrounding years. Under these conditions, the middle years between two leap years would appear to give the best picture of levels and trends in Greek nuptiality. They have been underlined on the figure.

35In Greece, the effects of nuptiality on fertility had been very favourable, particularly by concealing the drop in marital fertility towards the end of the 1960s, but the situation was reversed recently when the decline in marital fertility was considerably reinforced by the fall in nuptiality, without which it would have been much smaller. Finally, the data available for Portugal do not make it possible to distinguish between the roles of these two factors as we have just done. But the dramatic change in nuptiality trends which has occurred recently has resulted in effects of the same type as elsewhere, as will become apparent when we consider trends in first births.

36We have previously noted the increase in births outside marriage which has occurred in all these countries during recent years. To what extent has it compensated for the impact of lower nuptiality ? But for its increase, overall fertility would have dropped by 30 % in Italy between 1975 and 1982 and by 37 % in Spain, instead of the 28 % and 33 % observed ; in Portugal, the impact would not have been significant : –38 %, between 1976 and 1985, compared with the –35 % observed and, in Greece, the effect would have been altogether negligible [9].

Varying declines according to birth order

a – Italy and Spain

37The close relationship noted previously between these two countries – the preponderant role of the behaviour of married couples during the recent decline, assisted to a varying degree by the drop in the number of marriages – continues when we consider the trend in births of various orders (Figures 6a and b). In Italy, until 1974, the decline in marital fertility was basically due to the drop in the number of births of third and higher orders, which dated from 1965, to which must be added a more recent and slighter drop in the numbers of first and second births. After 1974, numbers of births of higher orders (4 and over), like those of the first order, continued to decline at the same rate, while those of orders 2 and 3 fell even more rapidly. Couples who already had either one or two children were, therefore, those most affected by the current climate. In Spain too, all births were affected, but after 1978, numbers of births of second, and particularly third orders virtually collapsed. If this trend were to continue, the distinguishing feature of Spanish fertility, a high progression ratio from second to third birth, is likely to disappear.

Figure 6

Recent trends in fertility by birth order. Italy and Spain : order-specific total legitimate fertility rate (per marriage). Portugal and Greece : order-specific total fertility rate (per woman)

Figure 6

Recent trends in fertility by birth order. Italy and Spain : order-specific total legitimate fertility rate (per marriage). Portugal and Greece : order-specific total fertility rate (per woman)

N.B. The slight upturn in first births in Portugal in 1980 is related to a change in the definition of birth order.

38In both countries, the recent acceleration of the decline in marital fertility can therefore be explained by the behaviour of couples who already have one or two children, among whom an additional birth is delayed or rejected by an increasing proportion.

39We next consider the recovery in first births during the last years observed. In Italy, trends in rates by marriage duration (Figure 7) show that the main factor in the decline of first births was a continual diminution of marital fertility during the early period of marriage (duration 1 on the above figure), where over half of these births were concentrated (48.5 % of couples married in 1970 had their first child in 1971). This trend has been compensated recently by a slow but sure increase in births at longer marriage durations : fertility rates after the third year of marriage have been increasing significantly for varying periods of time.

Figure 7

Italy. Legitimate fertility rates of first births by marriage duration (per marriage)

Figure 7

Italy. Legitimate fertility rates of first births by marriage duration (per marriage)

40The proportion of couples who have already had their first child throws more light on this phenomenon (Figure 8). Around 1970, this proportion reached what was probably its maximum value in recent decades when, amongst married couples, fewer than 10 % would remain childless. This proportion first decreased, because of the collapse of fertility during the early stages of marriage (durations 0 and 1), and then recovered for couples married in 1974 and 1975. These couples, while maintaining a low level of fertility early in marriage, later compensate for a good part of the delay : after six years of married life, the 1975 cohort had halved the gap of 5 points which had occurred between the 1970 and 1973 cohorts at this duration. If this movement were to continue – as the data concerning the more recent cohorts would appear to suggest – we would be faced with a modification in behavioural patterns such as has already been observed in other European countries during the late 1960s : a growing number of young couples who, previously, had their first birth immediately after marriage, now prefer to wait several years. The end result would be an increase of the average interval between marriage and first birth, accompanied, of course, by a probable increase in the number of couples preferring to remain childless which would, however, be smaller than period trends would suggest.

Figure 8

Italy. First order births by year and marriage duration (per marriage)

Figure 8

Italy. First order births by year and marriage duration (per marriage)

41A comparable analysis gives no signs, at least before 1982, of a similar recovery in the numbers of second births (nor, obviously, of third births), which continue to decline.

42The figures for Spain lead to similar conclusions (Figures 9 and 10) : collapse of fertility early in marriage and later recovery, all leading to an increase in the mean interval between marriage and the first birth. On the other hand, the final proportion of childless couples does not seem to have been affected, at least for the cohorts who, in 1982, were already at a sufficiently advanced stage in life, or among those formed before 1977 or 1978.

43The longitudinal perspective therefore mitigates, though perhaps only temporarily, the conclusions to which an analysis based only on annual trends could lead. Irrespective of what happened to other births, particularly to those of third and higher orders, most likely to be inexorably reduced, Italian and Spanish couples appear to be less prepared to remain childless than to delay the arrival of the first child. To begin with, this pattern of behaviour contributed to the overall decline in fertility, but later, it helped to slow it down.

b – Portugal and Greece

44It is not possible to make a direct comparison between the Portuguese data and those discussed above, for they give births per woman and not per marriage, so that the impact of variations in nuptiality cannot be avoided (Figures 6c and d). In effect, in Portugal, the sum of age-specific first birth rates before 1977 exceeded one child per woman and reflected the rapid decline in the age of mothers, caused by the strong upsurge in nuptiality which reached its peak about 1975, and probably also by the shortening of the interval between marriage and first birth. The sudden halt in this movement in the following years led, in turn, to the dramatic fall in the number of first births, which accounts for a large part of the current drop in overall fertility. Since 1982, the decline in numbers of second births reinforces the effect. This does not necessarily mean a lower fertility level for couples who already have one child, since a large part of the decline is due to a fall in the number of first births which had occurred some time previously.

Figure 9

Spain. Legitimate fertility rates by birth order according to marriage duration (per marriage)

Figure 9

Spain. Legitimate fertility rates by birth order according to marriage duration (per marriage)

Figure 10

Spain. Number of first births by year and duration of marriage (per marriage)

Figure 10

Spain. Number of first births by year and duration of marriage (per marriage)

45In Greece, the statistics by birth order are of the same type as in Portugal (Figure 6d). Before 1980, the sum of first birth order rates also exceeded the theoretical maximum value of unit, for the same reason as in Portugal, but to a smaller extent [10]. The decline which has occurred since 1980 is mainly due to first and second births, with the births of third and fourth orders unaffected for the time being : no doubt because the numbers of such births were already very low during the 1970s.

A strong negative influence of nuptiality on first births

46With the help of a few estimates, we obtain a more homogeneous picture than previously, at least for first births where comparison is quite difficult, given the special sensitivity of the available data to heterogeneity. In Figure 11, we show annual trends in the average number of first births per woman in the four countries, distinguishing the proportion of births outside marriage, and the average number of legitimate first births per marriage [11]. To make comparison easier, we preferred to demonstrate the variations rather than the values of these rates, using the value registered for a given year as a point of reference – 1974 (1975 for Spain), a period which preceded current changes.

47Overall, the trends in the two rates differ significantly, thereby demonstrating the consequences of the fall in nuptiality. Whereas in Italy, the fertility of couples first declined slightly between 1975 and 1979, and then began to increase again, following the recovery effect described previously, the average number of first births per woman decreased continuously, until in 1981 it was 26 % less than in 1974. The increase in numbers of births outside marriage did very little to halt this trend : without this increase, the drop would have been around 28 %.

Figure 11

Variations in the number of first births per woman (completed total fertility rate for first births) and per marriage (total legitimate fertility rate for first births). Base : year 1974 = 100 (Spain, 1975 = 100)*

Figure 11

Variations in the number of first births per woman (completed total fertility rate for first births) and per marriage (total legitimate fertility rate for first births). Base : year 1974 = 100 (Spain, 1975 = 100)*

* For Portugal and Greece, these are estimates (cf. note 12 in the text).

48During subsequent years, the continuation of low nuptiality, or even its decline, together with a continuous moderate increase in the number of births outside marriage, did no more than maintain, or even worsen, this situation [12].

49In Spain, the situation was similar except that, from 1980 onwards, the influence of fertility outside marriage, although remaining low, became slightly stronger than in Italy.

50In Portugal, after the upsurge in the general rate which reached a maximum in 1976-77 – and was caused, not only by favourable nuptiality, but also by a sudden increase in the fertility of young couples, related to the shortening of the birth interval – the situation was very similar between 1981 and 1985 to that of the two previous countries a few years earlier, when extra-marital births, although much more numerous, failed to compensate for the decline in nuptiality.

51It would appear that the same process began in Greece around 1980. The observation period is shorter – 1982 is the last year for which births are known by order – but more recent information is available : the continuation of the fertility decline early on in marriage as well as the fall in nuptiality show that the average number of first births per woman has continued to decline at least up until 1984.

52In contrast to the results obtained when we looked at births of all orders, the depressive effect of nuptiality is here by far the most important factor. The increase in fertility outside marriage, which has on occasion been very significant, has not in any way compensated for this.

Some possible consequences for infertility

53If we now take a longitudinal point of view, to estimate the influence of these trends on the proportion of childless women, the effects remain uncertain. In Italy, women born during the first half of the 1950s experienced favourable conditions before 1975 and were affected by the current fertility decline after they had reached the age of 20 to 21 years, when the great majority of first confinements had already taken place. The final proportion of those with at least one child should therefore be little affected and remain constant around 84 % (Table 10). For women born later, achieved fertility is decreasing considerably from one cohort to the next, while remaining at levels comparable to or higher than those which women born around 1950 experienced at the same age. But there is no doubt that the continuation of the decline during the 1980s must have made the drop in numbers worse.

Table 10

Italy and Portugal. Percentage of women who have had a first birth at various ages by year of birth (for 100 women)

Table 10
Italy Year of birth Age 1950 1951 1952 1953 1954 1955 1956 1957 1958 1959 1960 1961 1962 1963 18 5.5 5.8 5.9 6.5 6.8 7.3 7.8 8.0 8.0 7.6 6.4 5.5 4.9 4.5 19 9.8 10.3 10.6 11.7 12.0 12.9 13.3 13.4 13.2 12.7 11.3 9.9 9.0 20 15.8 16.7 17.4 18.6 19.1 21.0 20.4 19.9 19.3 18.5 16.9 15.1 21 23.7 24.6 25.7 26.9 27.2 27.9 28.1 27.0 26.0 24.9 23.0 22 32.6 33.6 34.7 35.8 35.5 36.0 35.7 34.2 32.7 31.3 23 41.6 42.7 43.6 44.1 43.5 43.6 43.0 40.9 39.3 24 50.2 50.9 51.4 51.6 50.6 50.4 49.8 47.1 25 57.6 57.9 58.3 58.1 57.0 56.6 55.6 26 63.5 63.7 64.1 63.9 62.5 62.0 27 68.3 68.3 68.6 68.6 67.2 28 72.2 72.2 72.6 72.4 29 75.2 75.3 75.8 30 77.6 77.7 EAF 84.0 84.1 84.2 84.3 83.5 83.0 Year of birth Portugal Age 1950 1951 1952 1953 1954 1955 1956 1957 1958 1959 1960 1961 1962 1963 18 7.1 7.0 7.2 7.7 7.8 7.9 8.6 9.0 11.1 12.2 11.9 11.6 11.1 11.7 19 12.4 12.3 12.9 13.4 13.4 13.8 15.1 17.5 19.7 20.2 19.1 18.9 17.9 17.5 20 19.2 19.7 20.0 20.9 20.9 22.2 25.7 27.8 29.5 29.2 28.1 27.0 26.2 25.2 21 27.4 27.7 28.4 29.3 30.0 33.6 37.0 37.7 39.2 39.0 36.8 35.7 34.6 33.1 22 36.2 36.8 37.6 39.1 41.3 45.1 47.5 47.1 48.8 48.0 45.7 44.1 42.7 40.0 23 45.4 46.0 47.1 50.2 51.9 54.6 56.1 55.6 57.2 56.2 53.4 52.0 50.0 24 53.9 55.3 57.0 59.8 60.5 62.3 64.1 62.8 64.4 63.2 60.2 58.3 25 61.9 64.1 65.3 66.9 66.8 69.0 70.4 69.0 70.6 69.1 65.8 26 68.9 70.8 71.1 72.2 72.1 74.1 75.7 73.8 75.5 73.7 27 74.0 75.5 75.3 76.5 76.0 78.1 79.5 77.6 79.3 28 77.7 78.9 78.6 79.6 79.1 81.1 82.6 80.6 29 80.3 81.8 81.3 82.1 81.3 83.4 85.0 30 82.6 84.0 83.3 83.9 83.7 83.2 31 84.2 85.6 84.8 85.4 84.6 32 85.4 86.7 85.9 86.5 33 86.3 87.6 86.8 34 87.0 88.3 35 87.9 EAF 89.0 90.1 89.2 89.7 88.8 90.3 91.5 89.5 90.5

Italy and Portugal. Percentage of women who have had a first birth at various ages by year of birth (for 100 women)

EAF = Estimated achieved fertility.
N.B. : The Portuguese figures have been calculated without any adjustment for the change in definition of birth order which occurred in 1980. Any such adjustment would be unlikely to affect the results.

54In Portugal, the same pattern can be observed, but with a lag of five years, beginning with the cohorts born around 1960. In terms of fertility achieved, the decline could turn out to be even larger than for women born during the 1950s, among whom 89 %-90 % are estimated to have at least one child [13].

55The statistics in Spain are too recent to allow even a provisional estimate of achieved fertility. Nevertheless, trends in age-specific fertility permit a glimpse of some interesting aspects (Table 11). Fertility between the ages of 21 and 26 continues to fall in successive cohorts, which shows that the recovery of fertility within marriage did not compensate at these ages where nuptiality was high for the decline in the number of marriages. Only after the age of about 26 did this recovery begin to make itself felt, with a stabilizing effect on general fertility. Finally, we note that, for ages below 21, fertility was affected only after 1980. Until then, the decline in nuptiality, which was quite moderate at these ages, had been in part compensated by the increase in the number of births outside marriage and by those resulting from pre-marital conceptions. After 1980, this compensation becomes insufficient in comparison with the significant drop which is now affecting the marriages of young women.

Table 11

Spain. First birth rates by year of birth (per 1,000 women)

Table 11
Year of birth Age 1955 1956 1957 1958 1959 1960 1961 1962 1963 1964 1965 17 15.2 18.2 18.6 19.5 20.3 20.7 18.2 17.4 18 26.9 30.2 30.8 32.4 32.2 32.5 28.3 27.3 19 39.9 43.6 45.1 46.1 46.5 45.2 40.2 37.1 20 55.8 62.5 61.7 59.0 58.2 59.5 51.9 48.3 Year of birth Age 1949 1950 1951 1952 1953 1954 1955 1956 1957 1958 1959 21 72.8 81.4 78.9 73.9 71.8 68.6 22 95.1 99.5 95.8 90.5 84.1 80.5 72.1 23 111.2 115.2 107.7 99.1 90.7 85.2 79.5 74.0 24 114.8 114.3 108.0 98.4 89.8 85.0 77.5 74.1 25 103.1 103.5 94.3 87.7 80.2 77.4 72.1 69.9 26 84.3 80.6 76.5 71.6 66.9 65.5 61.8 60.0 27 61.1 57.1 55.3 52.1 52.6 49.9 49.3 28 42.9 40.4 39.9 39.5 39.1 38.6 29 32.2 31.4 32.9 32.7 32.5 30 24.3 27.2 28.0 27.4 31 17.4 18.2 18.1

Spain. First birth rates by year of birth (per 1,000 women)

56Immediately after the Second World War, fertility in the four countries remained higher than in most other countries of Western Europe, because the demographic transition occurred later. During the next thirty years, they were to experience, in varying degrees, trends in common with a large part of Europe, while their secular decline in fertility continued.

57Within marriage, the most extreme Malthusian behaviour patterns – childlessness or one-child families – became less frequent, but at the same time, large families tended to disappear. The average number of children per marriage, therefore, continued to decline – sometimes very rapidly, as in Greece – whereas it was increasing in many of the countries of industrialized Europe. Secondly, nuptiality remained high in the four Southern countries, contributing to a decrease in the mean age at childbirth and, by reducing female celibacy, mitigating the effects of the decline in marital fertility. But this mitigation was not sufficient to stop the decline in achieved fertility, except in Spain, where it recovered to a limited extent, as in the Western European countries at the same time.

58In the Southern countries, therefore, the trend of declining fertility, which was influenced by the initial delay, was curbed by the adoption of behavioural patterns which show that this region was also affected by the main currents which influenced population trends in Europe during these years.

59When, more recently, a new situation resulted in the appearance in all industrialized countries of new behavioural patterns much less favourable to childbearing, their effect was also apparent in the Southern countries, even though there was a time lag. Different stages of family building were affected in different degrees. Within marriage, the decline of fertility amongst couples in the middle of their reproductive career reinforced the previous, and no doubt unavoidable, decrease in the number of large families : births of the first three orders were affected to a different extent in each of the countries.

60The rate of formation of new families remained high with beneficial effects on fertility until the second half of the 1970s, but it then slowed down, at least in its traditional form, as was the case elsewhere several years earlier. Given the social pressure exerted on fertility outside marriage, this decline in the number of legal unions had an immediate and significant effect on first births, which is likely to spread quite rapidly to all births. Only a recovery of nuptiality or a change of attitude towards births outside marriage could reverse the current trends. Neither of these is likely to occur in the near future to a sufficient degree, even though it is possible to discern some trends towards the latter possibility.

61In the short term, the chances of recovery would tend to lie in the behaviour of married couples who have either remained without children or who have one or two children only. As regards the former, some signs of recovery are apparent in Italy and Spain, where the decline began earlier. If this trend were to be confirmed, it would mean that the desire to delay the arrival of the first child is stronger than the desire to remain childless. Nevertheless, an increase in the number of childless couples cannot be discounted. In the same way, in these two countries, the current decline in second and third births is likely to result in a lower parity progression from first to second and, especially, from second to third births, even though this may take a little time.

62In any case, in the four countries studied, the factors leading to a decline should be as important as, or even more important than, those leading to a recovery and fertility levels are likely, for a few more years, to remain very low. In Spain and Portugal, fertility is sufficiently high for cohorts born towards the end of the 1940s to replace themselves, but this is unlikely to be true for women born during the 1950s. This situation, which has already been true in Greece and Italy for some time, will bring the situation of our four countries closer to that in the industrial world.

63After a period which has been quite long – roughly three-quarters of a century for the Iberian countries – they have now completed their fertility transition. In this respect, the differences which separate them from the rest of Europe are hardly more significant than those which still exist within Europe : whatever is likely to happen to reproductive behaviour in Europe is likely to apply to its southern part without being affected by the constraints of previous decennia.

Table 1
Table 1
Year Total fertility rate (per woman) Total nuptiality rate for single women (per woman) Illegitimacy ratio (100 live births) Spain Greece Italy Portugal Spain Greece Italy Portugal Spain Greece Italy Portugal 1945 6.3 5.1 12.6 1946 6.2 3.9 12.3 1947 5.5 3.7 12.1 1948 5.7 3.5 11.8 1949 5.6 3.4 11.8 1950 2.48 2.49 3.09 824 883 22 5.2 3.4 11.8 1951 2.47 2.34 3.14 820 808 841 5.2 3.4 11.8 1952 2.56 2.29 3.19 852 823 878 5.1 3.4 11.5 1953 2.55 2.25 3.02 841 839 879 4.8 3.3 11.5 1954 2.50 2.32 2.92 890 891 865 4.6 3.2 11.2 1955 2.58 2.31 3.08 928 911 946 4.2 3.1 10.9 1956 2.61 2.33 2.30 2.95 1 008 724 905 852 3.8 1.5 3.0 11.0 1957 2.77 2.27 2.30 3.06 1 010 894 912 935 3.3 1.5 2.8 10.6 1958 2.80 2.23 2.28 3.04 1 028 922 936 954 2.9 1.4 2.7 10.5 1959 2.79 2.27 2.35 3.02 1 014 996 954 991 2.4 1.3 2.5 9.8 1960 2.81 2.22 2.37 3.01 999 785 973 909 2.3 1.2 2.4 9.5 1961 2.77 2.14 2.41 3.12 993 961 999 1 039 2.2 1.2 2.2 8.9 1962 2.81 2.17 2.43 3.24 994 976 1 025 950 2.1 1.2 2.2 8.5 1963 2.89 2.15 2.49 3.11 1 005 1 104 1 068 954 1.9 1.2 2.2 8.2 1964 3.04 2.25 2.62 3.17 990 1 100 1 067 979 1.8 1.1 2.0 8.0 1965 2.92 2.25 2.55 3.07 973 1 185 1 024 1 008 1.7 1.1 2.0 7.8 1966 2.93 2.30 2.52 3.04 971 1 046 987 1 031 1.6 1.0 2.0 7.5 1967 2.97 2.43 2.48 3.00 971 1 176 974 1 052 1.5 1.0 2.0 7.5 1968 2.91 2.39 2.45 2.90 951 931 952 1 016 1.4 1.1 2.1 7.4 1969 2.90 2.33 2.46 2.84 974 1 044 976 1 057 1.4 1.1 2.1 7.3 1970 2.85 2.40 2.38 2.62 999 1 057 1 007 1 102 1.4 1.1 2.2 7.2 1971 2.92 2.32 2.41 2.90 1 010 1 156 1 023 1 137 1.4 1.2 2.3 7.3 1972 2.90 2.32 2.36 2.69 1 043 920 1 045 1 048 1.4 1.2 2.5 7.1 1973 2.84 2.26 2.33 2.66 1 053 1 129 1 052 1 137 1.6 1.3 2.5 7.2 1974 2.89 2.38 2.31 2.60 1 043 1 042 1 006 1 069 1.5 1.2 2.9 7.2 1975 2.80 2.33 2.19 2.59 1 045 1 159 934 1 309 2.0 1.3 2.9 7.2 1976 2.79 2.35 2.08 2.59 984 942 882 1 246 2.2 1.3 3.1 7.3 1977 2.66 2.28 1.95 2.51 963 1 183 864 1 107 2.3 1.4 3.5 7.2 1978 2.53 2.29 1.85 2.32 926 1 060 809 981 2.5 1.4 3.9 7.7 1979 2.35 2.29 1.73 2.20 864 1 144 784 973 2.8 1.4 3.9 8.2 1980 2.18 2.21 1.63 2.22 772 872 778 878 3.9 1.5 4.3 9.2 1981 2.01 2.10 1.58 2.13 684 967 762 924 4.4 1.6 4.3 9.5 1982 1.91 2.03 1.57 * 2.07 641 917 750 * 877 5.1 1.5 4.6 10.0 1983 1.77 * 1.94 1.53 * 1.94 610 * 952 * 717 * 884 5.2 1.6 4.8 10.7 1984 1.73 * 1.82 1.50 * 1.89 640 * 727 * 709 * 810 5.0 11.5 1985 1.68 * 1.42 * 1.69 870 * 695 * 787 5.3 12.3 1986 1.62 * 1.61 * 790 * 695 * 795 * 5.6 * 12.8
* Provisional
Table 2

Illegitimacy rate (for 1,000 unmarried women aged 15 to 49)

Table 2
Census about : Spain Greece Italy Portugal Census about : Spain Greece Italy Portugal 1950 7.3 5.3 22.8 1970 2.8 2.3 4.8 15.2 1960 4.6 1.9 4.2 20.7 1980 6.7 3.1 5.5 18.0

Illegitimacy rate (for 1,000 unmarried women aged 15 to 49)


  • [*]
    Translated by Bobbie Le-Texier.
  • [**]
  • [1]
    It was not possible to obtain an accurate estimate for Greece. The range indicated has been deduced from interpolation of the estimated completed family sizes for the cohorts born around 1905 and 1935, and from the sum of the fertility rates estimated for the period 1950-1955.
  • [2]
    In Spain and Portugal, this is the number of children born and reported by married women at the time of the census (in the Spanish case, married women in their first union). In Italy, the data are drawn from statistics on population movement.
  • [3]
    In Great Britain, for example, in the cohorts formed around the mid-1920s, 16.5 % of the couples remained childless and 25 % had only one child.
  • [4]
    The difference between these two categories of women at the census date in the two countries can, of course, provide a partial explanation of this gap. In effect, the existence of "infertile" periods between two marriages is a determinant of decrease in observed fertility in Portugal, but not in Spain. But this factor is far from explaining the whole of the observed gap ; this can be shown by comparing the distribution by numbers of children for all women, except single women, when differences comparable to those in Table 2 are again found.
  • [5]
    An analysis by region shows that the proportion of such couples was significant, event in the Northern regions where fertility was very high : 11 % in Braganza (with 4.2 children on average per married woman), 9 % in Vila Real (4.6 children per women), 13 % in Viana do Castelo and in Aveiro (3.9 children). Note that, in the Spanish cohorts before 1941 (3.8 children on average), this proportion barely reached 9 %. Whatever the explanation, the figures show that the phenomenon was widespread.
  • [6]
    Statistics of natural population movement only give the birth order for five-year age groups of mothers, which only allows cohort fertility to be reconstructed for ten-year age groups, that overlap. We have attributed the values found to the middle cohorts of each group. Furthermore, we have considered all births and not just births within marriage. Since the level of celibacy remained stable, this is hardly a disadvantage for judging trends in parity progression ratios. On the other hand, the value of a0 is lower than that calculated within marriage and this should be taken into account when comparing it with other countries.
  • [7]
    In Spain, the rates before 1980 underestimate the true situation somewhat because of under registration which has been found in marriage statistics since 1981.
  • [8]
    We recall that the decrease in the average number of births per marriage has been continuous since the secular decline in fertility began. The chronology indicated here is that of the period rate, which benefited from a halt to the decline during the 1950s and 1960s, related to the changes in the timing of legitimate births already mentioned.
  • [9]
    Between 1975 and 1982, the average number of children per woman born outside marriage increased from 0.057 in Italy to 0.072, and from 0.054 to 0.095 in Spain. In Portugal, between 1976 and 1985, it increased from 0.180 to 0.210.
  • [10]
    The absence of statistics on births by order and marriage duration is felt here, compared with Portugal. This is attenuated by the existence of statistics on births by duration of union, for all birth orders. Indeed, the increase in legitimate fertility rates for the first durations, during this period, provides almost certain proof of a shortening of the first birth interval.
  • [11]
    These are, respectively, the total fertility rate for birth order 1 and total legitimate fertility rate for the same birth order. Except for Spain in which, since 1975, the data necessary for calculating the two rates are available, both these measures had to be estimated. In Italy, it has only been possible to calculate the former directly since 1980 ; previously, only legitimate births were tabulated by birth order and mother’s age. For previous years, it was therefore necessary to make an estimate which included illegitimate births. In Portugal, the lack of statistics on births by marriage duration made it necessary to estimate the second rate, which we did by using the method of weighted averages with the timing of first births observed in Spain. Greek statistics have the same deficiencies as Portuguese, except that they provide the legitimate births, for all birth orders taken together, by marriage duration. Rather than using the same method as for Portugal, we preferred to use the existing data, taking into account the legitimate fertility rates at the beginning of the union (more specifically, at durations 0 and 2 full years of marriage), which provide a relatively good picture, in the absence of any significant delays, if not of the level, at least of the trend in first-birth fertility.
  • [12]
    In 1984, the number of first marriages per woman is estimated at 0.74 (0.78 in 1980). As for first births outside marriage, they should not exceed 50 per 1,000 women in the same year (48 per 1,000 in 1981).
  • [13]
    This proportion will reach even higher values – about 91 % – for women born around 1955, who will reap the benefit of the upsurge in nuptiality of the years 1976-1977.

Within a period of a few years, the face of economic Europe has changed : the North, dynamic and industrial, has been caught in the grips of the crisis, while the South, lethargic till now, is undergoing a remarkable development.
This upheaval of economic geography is reflected in the demographic sphere also. All the southern countries have experienced rapid and important changes. At present, declines in nuptiality and fertility in some of them have even exceeded those of some of the Northern countries. Francisco Muñoz-Pérez[**] describes these transformations which are completely changing traditional ideas on the Mediterranean family and fertility.


  • Fernandez Cordon J.A. – "Análisis longitudinal de la fecundidad en España", in Tendencías demograficas y planificacion éconómica. Ministry of Economy and Finance, Madrid, 1986.
  • Festy P. – "La fécondité des pays occidentaux de 1870 à 1970". Travaux et Documents, Cahier n° 85, INED/PUF, 1979.
  • Festy P. – "Les perspectives démographiques de l’Europe méridionale et de l’Irlande", Council of Europe, Strasburg, 1983.
  • Monnier A. – "L’évolution récente de la fécondité dans les pays méditerranéens", in Aspetti demographici differenziali dei paesi del bacino mediterraneo. Cacucci Editore, Bari, 1984.
  • Muñoz-Pérez F. – "Changements récents de la fécondité en Europe occidentale et nouveaux traits de la formation des familles", Population, 3, 1986.
  • Rallu J.L. – "Permanence des disparités régionales de fécondité en Italie ?", Population, 1, 1983.
  • Saez A. – "La fécondité en Espagne depuis le début du siècle", Population, 6, 1979.
  • Santini A. – La fecondità delle coorti, University of Florence, 1974.
  • Ventisette M. – Nuove tavole di fecondità dei matrimoni per l’Italia, 1930-1981, University of Florence, 1986.
Francisco Muñoz-Pérez
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