The Geography of Secularization and Reproductive Behaviour. Continuity and Change in a Catholic Setting (North-Eastern Italy, 1946-2008)

Maria Castiglioni , Università di Padova
Agnese Vitali, University of Trento

Past studies suggest the existence of an association between secularization and reproductive behaviours in different stages of the demographic transition. The aim of this paper is to test whether there is an association between the geography of secularization and the geography of reproductive behaviours in one of the areas in Europe where the influence of Catholicism has been most pervasive since the first half of the 20th century: the North-Eastern Italian regions of Trentino-Alto-Adige, Veneto and Friuli-Venezia-Giulia. This paper employs a spatial econometric approach using data from 1,200 municipalities. As dependent variables, we use estimates of municipal-level fertility in the 1950s, 1970s and 2000s, aimed at capturing fertility levels during the final phases of the First Demographic Transition (FDT), the initial phases of the Second Demographic Transition (SDT), and fertility recuperation, respectively. As indicators of secularization, we use the proportion of votes for parties other than the Christian Democratic Party (DC) in 1946, the proportion of votes in favour of the divorce law in the referendum of 1974, and the proportion of votes other than DC in 1992. Preliminary results from Spatial Lag and Spatial Durbin models show that 1) “new” reproductive behaviours are more likely to be found in municipalities characterized by high secularization; 2) municipalities that were forerunners in the FDT are also forerunners in the SDT; 3) Some areas remain persistently reluctant to secularization.

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 Presented in Session 116. The Role of Culture for Childbearing