Declining Fertility in the Context of Political Polarization and Resurgent Authoritarianism

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Demographers have identified many social origins of fertility changes, including the influence of economic development, secularization, and ideational changes. However, attention to political factors of fertility is hitherto scarce. During the last few decades, mass political polarization has become a significant issue in many societies. Democracies are also threatened by resurgent authoritarianism. These major political changes have affected many aspects of life. Unfortunately, our understanding of demographic behaviors in the context of political polarization and resurgent authoritarianism is very limited.

Hong Kong presents an interesting context to contribute to this emerging literature. Since the Occupying Central Movement in 2014, mass political polarization has occurred in this global city – the conflict between the pro-establishment and pro-democratic camps has become more intense. The conflict had turned the city into large-scale protests during the Anti-Extradition Law Amendment Bill Movement in 2019. While the protests in 2019 had died down after the government took drastic legal and political measures to kill protestors’ hopes of liberal reforms, the effects of such drastic measures on its residents could be long-lasting.

This study analyzes couple-level data collected from a representative household survey of men and women (N = 1560 married persons from 780 couples) at reproductive age in 2022. The data revealed that fertility intention is related to this political context in two important ways. First, fertility intention is strongly associated with political orientations. Residents holding pro-democratic values have a much lower level of fertility desires compared to other residents. Second, political polarization has increased the chance of having within-couple political disagreements. Couples with political disagreements tend to report a lower level of fertility intention. These findings have important theoretical and policy implications.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jun 2023
EventXX ISA World Congress of Sociology - Melbourne, Australia
Duration: 25 Jun 20231 Jul 2023 (Conference website) (Conference programme)


ConferenceXX ISA World Congress of Sociology
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