This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Monday, May 8, 2017

Demographics of Hungary

Hungary has been in the news lately especially because of the government's proposed legislation to close the Central European University in Budapest that was started by Hungarian-American philanthropist George Soros. And it was one of several eastern European countries that was not happy about the flow of Syrian and other refugees into Europe.

But there's a lot more interesting stuff going on in this country of nearly 10 million people, as well as among the many Hungarians who have left their homeland for western Europe. How do we know that? The answer lies in the "Demographic Portrait of Hungary," put together by Zsolt Sp├ęder, Director of the Hungarian Demographic Institute in Budapest. It is laid out as a set of chapters that are structured like journal articles around specific demographic topics including marriage, fertility, mortality, migration (internal and international(, aging, family and household structure, and scenarios for the future. In other words, its structure is not unlike that of my book, but specific to what's happening in Hungary and to Hungarians.

Like most eastern European countries, Hungary has had below replacement fertility for a long-time and is on the verge of depopulation. Is there something about Hungarians that promotes low fertility, or is it a reflection of changes that have taken place over time in the country? Some clues come from the chapter on fertility in which the authors search out data from the United Kingdom regarding fertility rates of migrants from Hungary to the UK:
In England and Wales 1,225 babies were born to Hungarian-born mothers in 2011. (For the sake of comparison 1,826 children were born in the whole of Vas county in 2011.) The total fertility rate calculated for Hungarian-born mothers living in England and Wales was 1.63, much higher than the TFR of 1.24 measured in Hungary in the same year. Most post-communist countries are characterised by substantially higher childbearing propensity among emigrants than those who stay at home (for example the TFR of Polish women in England and Wales was 2.13 as opposed to 1.3 in Poland).
Now this difference could be due to selectivity of emigrants from Hungary (if you want more kids, leave the country), and/or it could be due to more favorable circumstances for having children in the UK than in Hungary. Either way, it points to the unfavorable conditions for having children in Hungary. The authors offer data showing that the vast majority of people would prefer to have 2 or 3 children, but they aren't having them. They hint that gender roles may play a role in the stress that women feel in having to be responsible for working and for parenting. And these findings all come from just one of the chapters in this volume--check it out....

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