22.09.2019 change 22.09.2019

"Baby boom" in large Polish cities: University of Lodz scientist`s report

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The largest Polish cities, capitals of voivodships, recently had more births per woman of childbearing age than the Polish average. This unexpected evolution of birth rate is a temporary phenomenon, predicts Prof. Piotr Szukalski from the Institute of Sociology of the University of Lodz, who explains the reasons for this trend.

Total fertility rate or potential natality is the average number of children that would be born to a woman of childbearing age, between 15 and 49 years of age. Over the past decades there has been a simple pattern: the fertility rate of female city residents was lower than that in the countryside. Moreover, the fertility rate of women from large cities (at least 100,000 inhabitants) was lower than that in cities total. Women in larger cities had higher education levels, worked and earned more, had higher professional aspirations. With the size of the city, the knowledge of contraceptives among its inhabitants also increased. Sociologists observed a departure from the traditional family model.

"Meanwhile, in Poland today it is not the largest cities that have the lowest fertility rates, but - surprisingly - in some regions, the tendency of female city residents to have children is above the region average" - says Prof. Szukalski, author of the report "Fertility rate increase in recent years: why do large cities benefit most?".

This is a new observation - the researcher notes, because over the quarter of a century from 1990, none of the voivodship capitals recorded a higher fertility rate than Poland total. Recent years, however, are changing this image. In 2015, more children were born in Gdańsk and Warsaw, in the following year - also in Gorzów Wielkopolski. In 2017, "baby boom" was recorded in six regional capitals, in 2018 - in nine.

Prof. Szukalski observed that regional capital`s populations now more often exhibit higher fertility rates than the total populations of the respective regions.

A significant proportion of the population (usually 20-30%) often resides in voivodship capitals, and this means a large reproductive advantage over the rest of the population of a given region. This is the situation the sociologist from the University of Lodz observed in 2015 in Gorzów Wielkopolski and Opole, in 2016 in Gdańsk and Rzeszów, in 2017 in Szczecin and Kielce. It also occurred once (in 2018) in Zielona Góra, Olsztyn and Wrocław.

Prof. Szukalski observes changes in demographic behaviour both on a spatial scale and within social groups. Among the reasons for these changes, he lists the changing behaviour of women in rural areas and smaller cities. They only now started behaving like the inhabitants of have for a long time.

"Regions with the highest level of urbanization and economic development and the lowest attachment to the traditional definition of family were the first to begin dynamic changes in the patterns of fertility and family forming. Voivodships with a high share of rural population and the greatest attachment to traditional morality have recorded the period of such dynamic changes only in recent years" - the professor believes.

He adds that the family model changed first in the group of the best educated people. They delayed the decision to become parents and preferred having fewer children. These people had the most to lose, for example employment. Currently, this process is slowing down in major cities, but its progression is still quite fast in rural areas, especially the more traditional and religious ones.

The sociologist draws attention to international migrations and legalization of stay by internal migrants. He predicts that the higher fertility rate of regional capitals is only temporary, and after going through the necessary stages of transformation of reproductive behaviour, other areas will also "rebound" and the fertility recovery process will begin. In this case, in 5-10 years, after an increase in the fertility rate in rural and non-metropolitan areas, it may again turn out that the fertility rate in the largest cities is lower than the country or a given region average.

The report "Fertility rate increase in recent years: why do large cities benefit most?" was published in the Bulletin Demographics and Social Gerontology 2019 No. 5.

PAP - Science in Poland, Karolina Duszczyk

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