For the last two decades, Italy has recorded one of the lowest fertility levels in Europe – if not the lowest – and we know, for example, that more than one-fifth of Italian women born around 1965 will remain childless. A wide range of general economic, sociological and cultural reasons have been put forward to explain this phenomenon. Looking at the issue from a related, but slightly different angle, one might also wonder whether the individual fertility differences observed within the population correspond to differences in the socioeconomic characteristics of the women or indeed of the couples concerned. This is the question that Letizia MENCARINI and Maria Letizia TANTURRI seek to answer here, using data from a survey conducted in five Italian cities and covering 4,000 women aged 40 to 44. The findings reveal distinct characteristics by parity concerning the level of education, number of siblings, circumstances of union formation, religious observance etc. These are areas where Italy has undergone radical transformation in recent decades, a fact which takes us back to the first set of explanations.
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