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Jürgen Dorbritz (2004)

Demographic Knowledge, Attitudes towards Demographic Change and Reasons for Fertility Decline*

In: Zeitschrift für Bevölkerungswissenschaft, Vol. 29, 3-4/2004, p. 329-361, Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, ISSN: 0340-2398

The population in Germany is to some degree relatively well informed about demographic change, and has a differentiated assessment of trends. There is quite precise knowledge of population size and life expectancy, whilst considerable overestimates were found as to the numbers of foreigners and the proportion of elderly persons in the population. Both topics are frequently covered by the media in an extraordinarily negative manner, this being the case with regard to demographic ageing in particular. The population is aware of the connection between demographic ageing and the risk to the social security systems. Both frequent media presence and a knowledge of the consequences of demographic change also contribute to a clear overestimate of the actual size.

As to family demographic trends, all changes which suggest a danger to living in partnership with children are evaluated unfavourably. This relates both to the low fertility rate, and to the increasing number of divorces or the increasing childlessness. It is only with regard to marriage that a more distanced attitude is becoming evident. In the view of the respondents, living together in a partnership or having children is not necessarily contingent on marriage. By contrast, emphasis is placed on the significance of a partnership if one desires to have children. Children should grow up in a household with both parents.

A strong interest in reconciliation of family and work can be identified in the population. Asked to identify the ideal model, the majority of the population opted for a reconciliation model, favouring part-time work. The striving towards reconciliation is strong and unchanged in the new Federal Länder, but has increased in the former Federal territory in comparison to the first half of the nineties. In addition to the general orientation towards family and part-time working, the desire to follow the current reconciliation model (no work as long as the children are small) can be found more frequently in the West. In the new Federal Länder, by contrast, the model of the former GDR, namely full-time reconciliation, is regarded as being more important.

Of extraordinary family policy relevance is a group in the population which desire to remain childless. Individualistic motives (such as "I couldn't enjoy my life in the same way", "I would have to give up my leisure interests"), maintenance of standards of living and the unfavourable reconciliation situation are given much more importance as reasons against the birth of children than in the average of the population. It can be presumed that a social group has come about here in which the individualistic desire to remain childless is so strongly established that for instance family policy has no chance to promote fertility.

* Original title: Demographisches Wissen, Einstellungen zum demographischen Wandel und Ursachen des Geburtenrückgangs (full text in German only)

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