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Dirk J. van de Kaa (2007)

A Precursor of the Concept of a Second Demographic Transition

In: Zeitschrift für Bevölkerungswissenschaft, Vol. 32, 3-4/2007, p. 371-380, Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, ISSN: 0340-2398

Some scholarly papers age well. The population study on the background of recent fertility trends in the Council of Europe Member States published in 1984 is such a paper. Reading it again a little more than twenty years after first seeing it in draft, I was reminded of the scholarly qualities and breadth of knowledge of the author, Josef Schmid, then of the University of Bamberg. I suggest that there must have been four reasons why I have remembered the paper as an important contribution. (i) It strikingly reflected the difficulties demographers had to deal with in interpreting the decline of fertility to levels well below replacement, while at the same time the author argued convincingly that it was likely to stay there. (ii) It identified value change as a crucial factor in the decline, (iii) It explicitly recognized that the strong link between sexual relations and procreation had been broken, and (iv) It displayed a certain awareness that a demographic regime change could be involved. With the benefit of hindsight I defend the view that the paper can be characterized as a precursor of the idea of a Second Demographic Transition.

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