Why have people in eastern Turkey maintained their high fertility behaviour? Examining the channels of social interaction

Mustafa Murat Yüceşahin, Ankara University

Many studies of developed and developing countries have demonstrated that fertility variations cannot be adequately explained on the basis of development alone. Development and cultural change push people to begin to abandon beliefs and values which encourage large families, so as to adapt to new circumstances. In this process, the diffusion of information and ideas promoting family planning and social influence play a crucial role in reducing the demand for children and encouraging behaviours toward limiting fertility. When we focus on the differentials in fertility within (rather than between) countries, the channels of social interaction may help to explain variations in the reproductive behaviours of different communities. Since the early 1960s Turkey has experienced rapid fertility declines, and by 2007 had nearly reached its population replacement level, with a total fertility rate of 2.17 children per woman. However, sharp fertility differences between the country’s regions are conspicuous, with low fertility in the west and high fertility in the east. The aim of this study is to examine the social interaction processes at both the geographic and social levels that have led to persistent high fertility in eastern Turkey. This study is mainly based on census data as well as demographic, health and family structure surveys. The dominance of traditional-patriarchal norms and the use of local languages in the undeveloped, predominantly Kurdish eastern region have erected a linguistic-cultural barrier. Thus, the local channels of social interaction have been shaped by the local norms and culture, which encourage large families. This study shows that social interaction processes are key for explaining spatial differentials across communities within a country. It can thus be concluded that, due to their uneven development and unique social environments, social influence may inhibit substantial fertility declines in eastern pre- or early transitional provinces.

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Presented in Poster Session 1

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