Reproduction Capacity from an Economic Perspective and Demography of the Future
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Since the 1950s the micro-economic approach has become a permanent part of analyses dealing with the transformations of procreation attitudes in European and American societies from the end of the nineteenth century. On the other hand, the application of economic theories of reproduction capacity in demographic and demographic-historical research is accompanied by controversies. The intention of this article is to present the economic theories which assumed shape in the USA and which explain procreation behaviour within the range of the neoclassical economy paradigm. The heuristic value of the considered theories is then discussed within the context of several selected demographic-historical issues. The first part of the article outlines the accomplishments of the three most influential researchers: the Leibenstein general model of the dependence between the population growth and the per capita income level, as well as his explanation of the stages of demographic transformations within economic progress; the Becker's formal economic calculation model relating to reproduction capacity and his interpretation of the process of reproduction changes; and the theories of R.A. Easterlin, treated as the missing link in the economic theory of reproduction capacity. The first to be discussed is his intergenerational relative income hypothesis, followed by the threshold of fertility regulation hypothesis. Part two examines those theories from the viewpoint of historical demography. The author underlines the fact that they contributed a certain methodological rigour (conceptualisation, operationalisation, quantification) to an analysis of the demographic processes of the past. At the same time, he stresses the problems introduced by the economic approach into the analysis of procreation behaviour (abstract models of human behaviour in place of conceptualisation; the assumption of the universal nature of maximising and rational behaviour; overlooking the importance of relations between the sexes in the reproduction process). The author also indicates elements of economic theories incompatible with material obtained from demographic-historical studies: the existence of 'traditional contraceptive cultures'; the significance of offspring as a source of social security and intergenerational conflicts caused by the right of inheritance; a differentiation of the parents' preferences 'vis a vis' their offspring due to the latter's gender, and others.
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