Fertility Transition and Regional Variation of Fertility in Turkey: Panel Data Fixed Effects Estimation, 1975-2000



Master’s thesis (15 creditpoints)



Maria Stanfors

Table of Contents


1. Introduction 4

1.1 Aim of the Thesis 5

1.2 Research Question 6

2. Background 6

2.1 General Overview of Turkey 7

2.2 Analysis of Fertility and Mortality Trends 9

2.3 Stages of Demographic Transition in Turkey 11

2.4 Regional Fertility Trends 14

2.5 Previous Research 16

3. Theoretical Considerations 18

3.1 Demographic Transition Theory 18

3.2 Economic Theories of Demographic Transition 21

3.3 Cultural Theory of Demographic Transition 29

3.4 Definitions of Variables and Hypothesis 30

4. Data and Method 34

4.1 Source Material 34

4.2 Statistical Method 35

5. Empirical Analysis 37

5.1 Statistical Results 37

5.2 Discussion 41

6. Conclusion 43

References 44



Turkey, similar to other least developed countries, entered into demographic transition process in the second half of 20th century. However, the transition process was not experienced at the same time and in the same way across different regions of the country. The aim of this study is to reveal the determinants of fertility transition and regional fertility variation in Turkey. The period under consideration is between 1975 and 2000 in other words the later part of transition. Different from previous studies, this study covers longer period of fertility transition and applies panel data fixed effects estimation method. The results indicate that education and income is decisive in fertility transition. However, different factors gain importance in different regions.

Keywords:Demographic transition, fertility, regional variations in fertility rate, Turkey.


Turkey, similar to other developing countries, entered thedemographic transition process during the second half of 20th century. The pattern of this process was similar to that experienced in Europe long before the last quarter of 19th century; first infant and child mortality rates decreasedand after some time, fertility rates followed this trend andreached replacement level. However, transition process was not experienced at the same time and in the same way across regions of the country. There exist variationsin fertility rates among different regions especially between East and West. For example, in West, total fertility rate decreased from 4.35 children in year 1960 to 1.73 in 2008. In East, total fertility rates have always been higher than West. In 1960, total fertility rate was 8.27 children yet it decreased to 3.27 children in 2008[*]. Fertility in urban-rural residence also varies in Turkey. Turkish Demographic and Health Survey 2008 (TDHS) indicates that total fertility rate in urban residence is2.00children but in rural residence it increased and reached 2.68 children.Statistical indicators show that West had completed fertility transition but East is still experiencing the fertility decline.

Variations in fertility rates across different regions of Turkey indicate that families decide their level of fertility by taking different factors peculiar to region into consideration. It is important to reveal these factors because we can develop effective social and economic policies if we understand how families reach a decision about the number of children.

Turkey offers excellent research opportunities with its unique modernization process and multicultural fabric of society; though challenging because the country, similar to other developing countries, lacks of longitudinal statistical record. Because of the data limitations, the field of demography is newer and untouched in Turkey. However, it is important to know exact number of population and its characteristics, especially fertility levels in order to make efficient social and economic policies in future.

According to Easterlin’s relative cohort size theory,if the current fertility levels are high, a new born exposes to overcrowding effect in three institutions namely; family, education, and labor market (Macunovich 2000, 236). For example, in family institution, parents have to distribute their limited income to more children if fertility levels are high. This means that each child is made less human capital investment relative to former cohort. In education institutions, physical and labor capital may not meet the demand of larger cohorts unless necessary investments are made. Thus, quality of education decreases. Finally in labor markets, wages decreased and unemployment rates increased if government does not meet employment of active labor force in case of rise in cohort population. On the other hand, a decrease in current fertility also causes problems. Lower fertility has contributed in a major way to population ageing, with economy wide effects on labor supply, consumption patterns, old age security, and so forth (Dribe 2008, 65).Hence, demographic structure of any country should be investigated carefully in order to prevent possible problems in the future.

In this study, I will contribute to the Turkish demographic researches by revealing determinants of fertility transition and the causes of variation in fertility levels across five statistical regions of Turkey.

1.1 Aim of the Thesis

The aim of my thesis is to identifythe factors responsible for fertility transition and regional fertility variation in Turkey between 1975 and 2000. According to State Institute of Statistics’ (SIS) classification, Turkey consists of five different statistical regions which differ in social, economic and cultural background. These different characteristics of regions may play an important role in fertility transition and cause variations in fertility at regional level. In order to achieve my aim, I will benefit from panel data fixed effects estimation method by using population census data belong to 1975, 1980, 1985, 1990, and 2000. I employed different theories in order to determine independent variables. The theories that I used are classical, economic and cultural theories of demographic transition.Using these theories allowed me to look at the complete picture of fertility transition in Turkey. Solving regression equation and interpreting results correctly will provide me to analyze factors effective in fertility transition and to find out causes of regional fertility variation in Turkey.I will have specified the independent variable which has the highest magnitude in explaining transition and regional differences.

Moreover, this study aims to make two important contributions to Turkish demography research. First of all, due to lack of longitudinal data, past researches aim to show the determinants of fertility transition and causes of regional variations in fertility, use either descriptive statistics or cross sectional OLS regression. Although cross sectional method is a useful tool under data limitations, it only provides a static view. By employing panel data fixed effects estimation, I include the time aspect to my study which provides a dynamic picture of transition. Secondly, when we look at researches conducted on regional variations of fertility in Turkey, we see that they tend to explain fertility variation by adopting one of the demographic transition theories. For example, either classical or cultural theory of transition is adopted. Rather than adopting one theory, this study employs three fundamental theories of demographic transition to explain the causes of variation in fertility levels. All in all, these contributions provide me to develop better policy recommendations in order to close the gap.

However, a similar study was conducted by Yasıt (2007) between years 1980 and 2000. Different from her study, I included population census for the year 1975. Fertility transition in Turkey was started in 1950s. Including data belongs to 1975 allows me to cover a wider time span of transition and thus to reach more accurate results. I also increased my observations which will improve the precision of my estimators. Moreover, I selected more accurate proxies for testing different theories of demographic transition. I concentrated on regional variation in fertility.

1.2 Research Question

In this study, I will try to answer two research questions namely; “What are the determinants of fertility transition in Turkey?” and “What factors are important in explaining fertility variationacross different regions of Turkey?”The causes of fertility transition and regional variations of fertility frequently studied topics in relevant fields. As I stated, Turkish demography field is newer and mostly untouched. For this reason, my research questions deserve to be studied.

In order to answer these questions, I developed hypothesis according to three fundamental theories of demographic transition. These theories are; classical, economic and cultural theories.

Classical demographic transition theory accentuates that modernization process, through affecting socioeconomic structure, is the real cause behind demographic transition. According to theory, different levels of modernization i.e socioeconomic development in each region may be responsible for fertility transition and cause regional fertility differences. To investigate the relation between socioeconomic development and child women ratio, I employed infant mortality rate, rurality, and employment in modern sectors of economy as independent variables. The statistical method will help me to reveal direction, strength and statistical confidence of the relationship between socioeconomic development variables and total fertility rate. I especially answer the question of how economic development affects fertility transition by considering both time and space effect.

Economic theories of fertility transition on the other hand adopt more micro approach and focus on household level of decision. In modern industrialized countries, parent’s decision on the number of children they want to have is claimed to be affected by income, market prices, preferences, female employment and female education level. In the model, female non agricultural labor force participation rate, rate of high school graduate women, rate of illiterate women andgross provincial product variables represents economic theories of fertility transition.Owing to the study, I will have revealed the effect of variables which show women’s position in society such as illiterate women, high school graduate women and female non agricultural labor force participation rate on fertility through time and across regions.

Cultural theories of fertility transition assert that transformation of traditional society into modern, urban society through changing preferences of parents about number of children is the cause of decrease in fertility levels. Theories also suggest that spread of information about modern contraceptive methods via mass media and education institutions further contribute fertility decline. In the model, education level, rurality, employment in modern sectors of economy and number of public libraries variables represent cultural theories. As a result of the study, I will have showed how decrease in rurality, transformation of agricultural economy into modern and spread of information through written media affect fertility.

2. Background

In this section, the main aim is to provide information about demographic structure of Turkey from a historical point of view. In section 2.1, I will give information about Turkish geography, history, economy and five geographical regions. In section 2.2, I will introduce population trends by focusing on mortality, fertility and population growth in Turkey from 1920s until today. In section 2.3, I will discuss the stages of Turkish demographic transition. In section 2.4, I will focus on the causes of variation in fertility rates among regions of Turkey. Finally, in section 2.5, I will analyze previous research on Turkish case. Appendix A. shows five statistical regions of Turkey and Appendix B indicates provinces situated in each of these regions.

2.1 General Overview of Turkey

Turkey is situated in geopolitically important area called as Anatolian Peninsula. In the northwest, she has borders with Southeastern Europe, in the northeast Caucasus and in the southeast Middle East. Turkey has coasts to three seas; in the North, Black Sea, in the West, Aegean Sea and in the South, Mediterranean Sea. Having borders to three continents and access to different sea routes open Turkey to political, social and economic changes coming from these regions. Thus, Turkey can be seen as a social laboratory in which the effects of different social phenomena can be observed at the same time. This unique structure of the country provides excellent research opportunities for social scientists, especially for sociologists and demographers.

Anatolia was dominated by the Seljuqs for almost two centuries (1055-1243) and afterwards she became the core of Ottoman Empire, which ruled also in the Europe, Middle East and Africa for almost six centuries (TDHS 2003, 1). After the collapse of Ottoman Empire by the end of The First World War and following The War of Independence, a new Turkish state was established from the ashes of empire. This new Turkish state was proclaimed as a republic in 29 October 1923. With the leadership of Kemal Ataturk, the country entered into a modernization process. The reformation of Ataturk marked a dramatic turning point in the westernization process that had already started before and the country broke up with almost all its traditional past and began to be transformed into a modern republic. The founding principles of Turkish Republic represent a radical shift from Ottoman traditions.

The modernization efforts taken by founding cadres of Turkish republic must be legitimize at international level to maintain the sustainability of new system. Thus, Turkey established a close relationship with Western countries, especially United States of America and Europe. Turkey is a member of the United Nations, the Council of Europe and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and an associate member of the European Union (TDHS 2008, 2).

Economic policies of Turkish Republic show differences in accordance with the necessities of the era. When we look at the situation in 1920s, we see that Turkish economy went bankrupt as a result of The First World War and The War of Independence. The country was poor and undeveloped even though the land and resources were plentiful. The problem was that lack of education, political and economic institutions and capital. The main economic activity was primitive agriculture. Throughout the 1920s liberal policies were implemented; the government promoted the development of industry through private enterprise, encouraged and assisted by favorable legislation and the introduction of credit facilities (TDHS 2008, 4). The outcome of liberal economic policies was not amazing but a moderate improvement in economy was observed and Turkish agriculture was started to be mechanized.

The 1930s were important for Turkish economy because the origin of modern industrialization was laid down in this decade. Industrialization was started in big cities especially Istanbul and Izmir then spread to productive agricultural areas such as Menderes and Cukurova plains. The economic policy of the Republic was changed radically in 1930s as a reaction to Great Depression of 1929. Turkish economy implemented étatist economic policies which mean that the key industries were owned by the state.

Despite Turkey did not engage in Second World War actively, the country faced with heavy restraints on economy (TDHS 2008). Turkish republic returned to apply liberal economic policies with transition to multi party regime in 1950. On the one hand, country encouraged private initiatives on the other hand government business enterprises were also supported. Import substitution policy was adopted as main economic policy until 1980s. After the 1980 coup d’etat, Turkey initiated to privatize all state initiatives and fully transformed into open market economy. Turkey is a middle income country at the beginning of 2000s (TDHS 2003, 5).

According to SIS classification, Turkey is composed of five different regions namely, West, South, Center, North and East which differ culturally, economically and historically. These different characteristics of regions affect demographic structure especially fertility levels.

The West region is the most densely settled, the most industrialized and the most socioeconomically advanced region of the country (TDHS 2008, 6). Istanbul and Izmir; economic and cultural capitals of Turkey, are situated in this region. The coastal line as well as inland is highly urbanized due to high inflow of migration. The main economic activities are industry, agriculture and tourism.

The South region is a developing region of Turkey. It has a great industrial potential. However, agriculture and tourism are the fundamental source of income in this region currently. An important amount of citrus and cotton which are exported are grown in this region. The South region has witnessed an industrial boom and an inflow of migrants, especially from the East and Southeastern provinces (TDHS 2008, 6).

The Center is another developing region of Turkey. It characterized by less fertile lands and low industry. Industrial production in the region is rising modestly as minor city centers rapidly developed, and Kayseri is the best example of this (TDHS 2008, 6). Cereal, furniture and marble production are the main industrial activities.

The North region has fertile lands but the cultivable amount is limited due to mountains structure of terrain. Mining, tea and hazelnut production are the sources of income in this region. On the other hand, Zonguldak, a western province has extensive coal mine reserves and is a center for coal mining and steel industry (TDHS 2008, 6). There are some infrastructure problems in the region yet larger amount of public (except some of those living in mountain villages) benefit from basic education and health care services.

The East region is the least developed region of Turkey. The geographic situation and climate of region renders agricultural activity difficult. However, the region is suitable for husbandry. Moreover, armed conflict between Kurdish separatists and Turkish armed forces also prevent the development of region. The level of urbanization is low, infrastructure is problematic. In general public faces difficulties to benefit from basic education and health care services. Thus, East region is the most migration giving region of Turkey.

2.2Analysis of Fertility and Mortality Trends

Central Statistical Office of Turkey conducted first population census of the republic in 1927. At that time, population of Turkey was 14 million[†]. After 1935, population censuses were updated every five years. The results of first censuses carry the marks of a history of wars, catastrophes and population exchanges (Shorter 1968, 4). Shorter (1985)estimates that 2.14 million Turkish were died in the first decade of 20th cc. by using reverse population projection method. Among these deaths, a considerable number was working age (15-64 years old) men. Naturally, number of widows and hectares of idle agricultural land were increased. Shortage of men and large number of widows led to a decrease in number of births. Underuse of agricultural land deteriorated living standards and resulted in high infant and child mortality. The normal process of population renewal had been thwarted by both depressed fertility and high infant and early childhood mortality during many years before 1923 (Shorter 1995, 9).