Secularization and fertility: Evidence from Spain

Pablo Brañas-Garza, Shoshana Neuman

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Since 1950 Spain has shown two parallel trends of dramatic drops in fertility and in religiosity(secularization). This paper explores the relationship between secularization and fertility amongSpanish Catholics. We use a unique, rich, data set which includes various dimensions of religiosity:respondent's religious affiliation; current church attendance (six levels); current prayer habits(eleven levels); spouse's religious affiliation; parental religious affiliation; and parental (maternaland paternal) and respondent's church attendance during childhood (nine levels). The multi-facetdata on religiosity (rather than a single dichotomous variable) allow for a sophisticated analysis,permitting rigorous conclusions to be drawn. The sample is restricted to married Catholic (femaleand male) respondents who were raised by Catholic parents and are married to a Catholic spouse inorder to obtain a homogenous sample and to focus on the effect of the level (intensity) of religiosity(rather than religious affiliation) on fertility. Fertility is related to the various dimensions ofreligiosity; first using cross-tabulation and then using OLS regression.Our results are substantive: i) We find that fertility is not related to the current intensity ofreligiosity. ii) Exposure to religious activities during childhood has a significant effect on women'sfertility (but not men). Interestingly, a father who rarely attended church services has a negativeeffect on his daughter's future fertility (decreasing the number of children by about 0.8), while themother's inactive churchgoing has an unexpected positive effect (leading to a increase of onechild). iii) The respondent's own church attendance during childhood does not have any effect oncurrent fertility. In sum, this study demonstrates the significance of childhood experience in shaping one's'taste for children'. It also suggests that there is no direct link between the rapid process ofsecularization occurring in Spain and the decline in birth rates.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDemographic Economics Research Perspectives
PublisherNova Science Publishers, Inc.
Number of pages32
ISBN (Print)9781604560541
StatePublished - 2008


  • Catholic
  • Church attendance
  • Fertility
  • Parental religiosity
  • Prayer
  • Religion
  • Spain
  • Taste for children


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