로딩중

LOADING...

SPEAKERS

Converging Narratives amid “Diverging Destinies” in South Korea

Young-Mi Kim (Yonsei University)

This study examines whether narratives that affect individual fertility decision diverge by class and gender among young adults in South Korea. Many theories on fertility tend to allude the demographic behaviors are heterogeneous across classes and such divergence will become strengthened as economic inequality increases. In particular, the negative income gradient on fertility is identified as a key demographic pattern that reinforces the intergenerational reproduction of inequality as most straightforwardly suggested by the diverging destinies hypothesis. On the other hand, the status externality theory suggests the differential fertility can be diminished on the rise of economic inequality. Such macro-level expectation has not been evaluated in the context of individual-level decision making. Using the 2018 Korean General Social Survey-linked in-depth interview data(N=104), this study analyzes how Koreans in their 20s and 30s make decisions on fertility, how they justify their decisions and how they explain the causes of the current extremity of low birth rate. Preliminary analysis reveals that discourses of fertility are surprisingly homogenous and converge to a dominant narrative that carries education, housing, competition, normality and parental responsibility as key components, which are usually considered as concerns to the middle class. Although there is a subtle variation across class and gender, the result implicates the escalating status competition around educational investment might lead to the widespread diffusion of middle-class narrative to avoid the risk of downward mobility when inequality increases. This finding provides a clue to understand not only the persistent lowest-low fertility in South Korea but also the weakening of differential fertility recently reported by several empirical studies.

Young-Mi Kim is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Yonsei University in Seoul, Korea. Her main research area is gender inequality in the labor market and organizations. Her research now centers on two related topics: one on the organizational (re)production of gender inequality and the other on its social consequences, especially fertility.

Back