Decisions to have children are influenced by cultural norms and economic constraints. Cultural and economic conditions have changed drastically, and, as a result, recent years have seen a sharp, nearly worldwide decline in birth rate, and exceedingly low birth rates in contemporary Europe and Japan. The history, causes, and consequences of this "fertility transition" are the central topics of this seminar. Historical topics include the emergence of the concept of deliberate family size restriction, which fostered birth rate declines in some countries long before the introduction of efficient contraceptives. Causes include the escalating cost of rearing children. Consequences include population aging and resultant difficulty funding pensions for retirees. (The “social security crisis” is much worse in Europe and Japan than in the USA.) The seminar also considers contemporary women's career-family conflicts, which illustrate some of the psychological, sociological, and economic factors with which the seminar is concerned.
Additional information is available at http://psych.upenn.edu/~norman/syl278p05.htm. Non-BFS students do not need special permission to enroll.