Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Recent studies of fertility patterns have documented the connection between egalitarian gender roles and very low fertility. Some research examines individuals' beliefs about gender roles, some focuses on women's labour force activities, and others study large scale societal changes. The conclusions drawn from these investigations indicate that egalitarian gender relations result in long-term below replacement fertility.;It is my contention that such conclusions are premature, that the current very low fertility results from the transition in gender relations rather than from egalitarian gender roles themselves. In this thesis, the nature of the relationship between gender and fertility is explored. A small data set of in-depth, unstructured interviews is used to understand the underpinnings of the relationship between gender and fertility.;I conceptualize gender as operating on three interrelated levels which affect people's fertility choices: individuals' perceptions of appropriate roles for women and men (gender role orientations); the division of household, parenting, and paid labour negotiated between partners (micro gender structure); and the organizing principle of the cultural milieu which affects the opportunities and activities of women and men (macro gender structure). To adequately understand fertility behaviour and its links to gender all three levels must be considered.;The findings of this investigation are threefold. First, the relationship between gender and fertility cannot adequately be assessed by focussing only on the number of children women have. Second, the various levels of gender are interrelated, and focussing on one level while excluding the others is insufficient for understanding the relationship. And, third, there is evidence to suggest that fully egalitarian gender relations do not necessarily lead to below replacement fertility.;The findings have implications for future demographic analysis. This research explains current low fertility as a prevalent strategy because of inherent contradictions between levels of gender. It is clear that the complexities of gender must be more effectively measured and fully integrated into fertility models.



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