Generally speaking, this paper focuses primarily on gender considerations of demographic attitudes in Iran. As clearly indicated in the existing literature, the term sex refers to the biological and physical disparities among men and women, whereas, the term gender deals with social and cultural differences associated with them. However, the literature review evidently shows that while there is a large body of social and demographic studies highlighting the differences between men and women, the existing literature still lacks sufficient research-based evidence to address the effects of gender attitudes in social and demographic studies. More importantly, such a research gap tends to be much more evident when we consider the impacts of these two terms of sex and gender simultaneously and comparatively. Accordingly, the findings presented and discussed in this paper contribute to fill the aforementioned research gaps in the existing literature.
The paper intends to present research-based evidence to explore the patterns and determinants associated with gender considerations of demographic attitudes. As a matter of fact, the study has three major objectives: first, to examine whether and how significantly males and females hold varying demographic attitudes; second, to explore the effects of gender perceptions on demographic attitudes and third, it takes a comparative approach to investigate whether and how demographic attitudes are affected by sex and gender attitudes, simultaneously and comparatively.
Methodologically, the field of this analysis is Iran which has witnessed one of the most spectacular demographic swings throughout the world in human history (McDonald 2005, Foroutan 2014, 2019), and has experienced fundamental socio-cultural changes and challenges which are also significantly associated with gender dynamics and women’s status. More specifically, the empirical research findings of this analysis are based on a recently-conducted national survey in order to explain the dimensions and differentials of gender considerations of demographic attitudes in Iran. The survey includes a sample of 5200 males and females aged 15 years and above, residing in both urban and rural areas of Ahvaz, Babolsar, Bojnord, Esfarayen, GonbadKavos, Gorgan, Hamadan, Kamyaran, Khoramabad, Mahmoudabad, Rasht, and Saghez.
Moreover, demographic attitudes in the present study have been measured by five key components: childbearing desires, attitudes towards the current official population policy or the so-called pronatalism, and attitudes towards emigration, divorce, and women’s age at first marriage. In addition, gender attitude is measured on the basis of the respondents’ views on women’s employment outside the home.
The research findings can be classified and summarized in three major steps. The first has examined whether men and women hold similar or varying attitudes towards the demographic issues. This part tends to confirm: a convergence among males and females, suggesting they have almost similar views and attitudes towards demographic issues such as childbearing desires, attitudes towards the current official population policy or pronatalism, and attitudes towards emigration, divorce, and women’s age at first marriage. The only significant exception is the attitude about women’s age at first marriage: while the majority of both males and females identify 21-24 years as the most appropriate age of marriage for women, a greater proportion of males prefer younger age of the marriage for women.
The second finding has revealed whether and how significantly the demographic attitudes are affected by the respondents’ views and perceptions on gender roles. In this part, as long as the respondents hold traditional and conservative views on gender roles, these are its demographic consequences: they want to have more children, more supportive for both pronatalism and women’s younger age at marriage, less supportive for both divorce and emigration. The opposite applies when the respondents have modern and liberal views on gender roles: they want to have fewer children, more in favour of both divorce and emigration, less supportive for both pronatalism and women’s younger age at marriage. For example, the proportion of those wanting ‘4 children and more’ completely disagree with women’s employment is about four times greater than those completely agree with women’s employment. Another example relates to women’s age at marriage: those completely disagree with this issue are three times more likely than those completely agree with women’s employment to be in favour of women’s age at marriage below 20 years. Finally, based on the third finding, two main patterns can be highlighted with regard to the simultaneous impacts of gender views on demographic attitudes: Firstly, the convergence among males and females on demographic attitudes as highlighted above exists only among those men and women who hold non-traditional views on gender roles. Secondly, males are more in favour of emigration than women, irrespective of gender attitudes.
The underlying results of this analysis support the key notion of the contemporary scholars of gender theory (Massey et al. 1993; Riley and McCarthy, 2003; Lindsey 2015): a comprehensive knowledge on gender considerations of demographic attitude requires not only to going beyond the simple differences between males and females, but also to take into account the effects of gender attitudes of two sexes from comparative and simultaneous perspectives.