The highest fertility in Europe: for how long? The analysis of fertility change in Albania based on individual data

Publication type

ISER Working Paper Series

Series Number



ISER Working Paper Series


Publication date

November 14, 2006


The paper uses data from the Albanian Living Standard Measurement Survey conducted in 2002 to analyse fertility behaviour in Albania, with a special focus on recent changes during the 1990s, as the country experienced dramatic economic and social upheavals. We use the standard non-parametric Kaplan-Meier estimator and Cox regression to investigate the role of a range of variables on timing of first, second and third births.

The analysis confirms previous research that the dramatic reduction of fertility in Albania prior to 1990 came as a result of the reduction of fertility from all cohorts. The youngest cohorts while not delaying the entrance into childbearing, having a first birth is still universal, have reduced the fertility of the second and third birth. Most importantly the reduction of fertility in the 1990s came mainly from the reduction in the 2nd and mainly the 3rd birth. When the two periods are compared interesting results come from this analysis. First, during the 1990s there is no change in the timing of first birth, while for the 2 nd and 3 rd births we find strong period effects. The latter is expected as the reduction in fertility came mainly from the reduction in these two parities. However, the fact that not much is changing with regards to the first birth might have some justifications. First, in 1990 maternity leave was expanded from 6 months to one year. During the early 1990s industrial collapse generated large redundancy programmes severely affecting the population involved in industry, but in particular women. These two factors might have affected women's decision for having a first birth, respectively by continuing to have the first birth early and making it universal even in the 1990s. Most importantly there is evidence that with the introduction of the market economy, women in Albania are moving from full employment to an increased proportion of housewives. The percentage of housewives has increased into 47% for women 15 years and over, from a period of full employment before 1990 (INSTAT 2004). The unemployment among women is also higher compared to men with a rate of 28% compared to 18.8% for men (INSTAT, 2004). All these factors put together with the fact that Albanian society still remains traditional, where having a first birth is the 'norm', can explain why there are no significant period effect for the first birth compared to other parities. The findings also prove that female education has been one of the most important determinants in bringing fertility down in Albania. In this respect Albania is similar to other East European countries where the changes in the social agenda particularly related to the expansion of female education, during the communism had strong effects in bringing fertility down. Again similar to East European countries and in contrast to Southern European countries, the economic and social crises of the 1990s affected the timing of birth, but in Albanian case of 2nd and 3rd birth. However, since Albania remains traditional in family values, the timing of the first birth was not affected. In this respect we cannot yet talk about postponement of childbearing in the Albanian case. The rapid improvements of mortality mainly affecting infant and child mortality, one expects that this improvement would have a strong effect in reducing fertility. The results of these analyses confirm yet again the fact that the survival of the previous child has a significant effect in bringing Albanian fertility down, similar to other countries.



working paper

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