Starting a family at your parent’s house: multigenerational households and below replacement fertility in Bulgaria

Kristen Ghodsee, Bowdoin College
Laura Bernardi, Université de Lausanne

In societies with strong multigenerational links, economic uncertainty results in choosing to stay with one child, sometimes in association with postponement of fort births (i.e. Italy) and sometimes in early childbearing (i.e. Bulgaria). Accounting for differences in these timing outcomes means better understanding the interaction between intergenerational family practices in lowest-low fertility contexts? In this paper, we focus in on the phenomenon of women who have one child in their early twenties and then choose not to have a second child. We argue that the key to this process is the persistence of extended multigenerational households in the Bulgarian context and their effect on young couples’ fertility decision making. We use semistructured interview data from the project Fertility Choices in Central and Eastern Europe and ethnographic fieldnotes. The interviews were collected from a sample of 22 couples resident in Sofia and representing different permutations of educational level, marital status and number of children (0 or 1). The four-year ethnographic fieldwork was conducted in both rural and urban Bulgaria between 1997 and 2009. Results suggest that as long as the economic situation remains dire, and young Bulgarians hopes for the future remain cynical, multigenerational households seems to represent the accepted practice of entering into parenthood for young Bulgarian families.

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Presented in Session 98: Living arrangements and coresidence