Low fertility and the state

Peter McDonald, Australian National University

Emergent from the rigid social regime of the male breadwinner model of the family, two waves of social change have subsequently had profound effects upon family formation behaviour. The first wave of change beginning in the 1960s but consolidated in the 1970s was a rapid expansion of social liberalism. The second wave beginning in the 1980s and consolidated in the 1990s was a sharp shift to economic deregulation. Both changes were state-sponsored and both have had substantial effects on the institution of the family in differing cultural and welfare environments. The period has seen the emergence of high rates of relationship breakdown and singleness and very low birth rates that are now posing challenges to social and economic futures. Yet the personal desire for intimacy and individuation through family relationships remains strong. This paper will investigate family policy approaches across varying institutional contexts that can restore the social balance.

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Presented in Session 68: The causes of low fertility