Do value changes explain fertility differences across the MENA region?

Dmitry Zakotyansky, National Research University Higher School of Economics
Tatiana Karabchuk, National Research University Higher School of Economics
Anna Ryabchikova, National Research University Higher School of Economics

Middle East and Northern Africa is a rapidly growing and world-shaking region of the world, with unique cultural-religious situation and following its own path of modernization with diverse fertility transition. Its’ population these days is approximately equal to that of European Union and is 5 times bigger than it was 60 years ago. Its’ fertility level is second high in the world after Sub-Saharan Africa, but in the same time it experienced the greatest fertility decline in the world over the past 30 years. Some MENA countries like Turkey, Tunisia, Lebanon and Iran have fertility level close to 2 children per women or even lower, while women in other MENA countries – Oman, Yemen, Iraq, Jordan – still give birth to 3 or even 4 children on average. Countries of the MENA region have a lot of common in their past: Arab and Muslim culture, geographic conditions. For centuries, they were moving at very similar path, but now they happened to have rather diverse state of modernization, state of fertility level. Why did their paths diverge and what are the factors explaining this differences at individual and country level? The paper focuses on MENA region fertility patterns and tries to explain the diversity between countries with similar traditional values and common dominating religion. Based on World Values Survey data for the two last waves authors pick up 16 MENA countries, analyze them using macro-level data and perform the regression analysis on the total number of children born. The results reveal that persons in MENA countries who have fewer children tend to have more egalitarian gender values, but the actual impact of various factors may significantly vary from country to country and between different MENA countries sub-groups.

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 Presented in Session 43. Gender and fertility