Fertile debates: a comparative account of low fertility in the Greek and British national press

Katerina Georgiadis, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)

This paper investigates how Greek and British mainstream national newspapers have approached the issue of low fertility, paying particular attention to the connections they draw between it and climate change. This analysis forms part of a broader study, covering a four year period, between 2001 and 2005, contrasting not only the frequency with which low fertility, in general, is mentioned by Greek and British newspapers, but also the manner in which it is debated. It shows that the Greek press focused more on the causes of low fertility, describing it in negative terms, such as ‘under-fertility’ (ipoyennitikotita) or ‘the demographic problem’ (to demografiko provlima), while the British concentrated on its consequences, using less politically charged terms to characterise it, even conveying it in a positive light, including its possible benefit to the environment. The paper discusses the media’s role in constructing and distributing particular forms of knowledge about low fertility and the impact this has had on the public’s understanding of the subject, its attitudes towards having children and its experiences of family-formation. This is achieved by comparing the print media’s explanations of the forces that lead to below-replacement fertility in Greece and the United Kingdom with a deliberately small sample of Greek and British middle-class women’s personal accounts of reproductive decision-making, which were gathered by the author during an extensive period of fieldwork in Athens and London between 2003 and 2004, as well as 2009. In observance of the theme of this year’s European Population Conference – Population and the Environment – the paper places special emphasis on whether these middle-class groups understood the environmental repercussions of low fertility, in contrast to the print media in their respective countries, and how this effected their decision making process.

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Presented in Poster Session 1

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