The Post-Recession Fertility Puzzle: Fertility Declines, Cross-Overs and Convergence after the “Great Recession”

Tomas Sobotka , Vienna Institute of Demography
Krystof Zeman, Vienna Institute of Demography

In line with historical evidence, fertility rates across the highly developed countries stagnated or declined during the “Great Recession” around 2008-12. Surprisingly, the subsequent economic recovery did not coincide with the recovery in period fertility rates. To the contrary, fertility rates continued sliding in 2013-2018 in most countries and regions, especially in those with moderately high fertility rates and generally better conditions for the families, including the Nordic countries, Western Europe, United States, Canada, and Australia. In addition, period fertility rates fell to extreme low levels in most East Asian countries (except in Japan), while significant fertility upturns were reported in Central and Eastern Europe. These contrasting regional trends reshaped the correlations between fertility, socio-economic development and gender equality. They also led to a broader cross-country convergence in fertility levels. This study aims to map these fertility shifts, looking especially at the following questions: How did the map of low fertility change during the last decade? Which countries experienced the largest fertility changes? Whose fertility behaviour changed the most? Are recent fertility declines mostly linked to a renewed postponement of first birth or do they signify a more permanent shift to smaller family size? We will analyse fertility changes by age, birth order, and social status, focusing on education, employment and country of birth. Finally, we will critically review the explanations of recent fertility declines and discuss the implications of recent fertility shifts for the major narratives on cross-country differences in fertility.

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 Presented in Session 115. Fertility