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European Sub-Replacement Fertility: Trapped or Recovering?

Publication Abstract

Download PDF versionLesthaeghe, Ron J., and Iñaki Permanyer. 2014. "European Sub-Replacement Fertility: Trapped or Recovering?" PSC Research Report No. 14-822. June 2014.

After at least two decades of sub-replacement fertility in virtually all European countries, some theories expect a reversal of the decline whereas others see a "low fertility trap." In this article we take a longitudinal, life-cycle view of fertility rather than operate with the classic period TFR, and document how two clusters of countries and regions of respectively higher versus lower fertility have come into existence. We refute the statistical basis of fertility rising with improving human development (HDI) or any other such general composite index. Instead we show that the bottlenecks are much more specific and are due to particular mixes of factors in the various countries. We predict the continuation of structural below replacement fertility for the second decade of the 21st Century in Europe. German-speaking countries could escape from the low fertility trap if they adjust their child-care and school organization, but for southern and formerly Communist countries (FCCs), that escape will be more difficult given the existence of multiple disadvantages.

Countries of focus: Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Netherlands, Portugal, Switzerland, United Kingdom.

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