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Is Low Fertility a Temporary Phenomenon in the European Union?


  • Ron Lesthaeghe
  • Paul Willems


This article addresses two questions: (i) will the mere end of further postponement of fertility in the EU-countries lead to an appreciable rise in European fertility and bring total fertility rates closer to replacement level, as witnessed in the United States? and (ii) what are the chances that such a stop to postponement is imminent? The answer to the first question is positive, but only if there is enough recuperation of fertility at older ages. Translated in the Bongaarts-Feeney framework, this condition means that the birth-order-specific TFRs would indeed remain constant. In the absence of full recuperation at older ages, the induced rise in the national TFRs would be trivial and by no means restore period and cohort TFRs to replacement levels. Hence, caution is needed when using the Bongaarts-Feeney adjusted TFRs for pro-jective purposes. With respect to the second question, female education and employment trends in tandem with ideational and family disruption data are used to speculate about the prospects for such an end to further fertility postponement and for fertility increases at older ages. Strikingly, EU-countries that have the greatest potential for still later fertility are also the ones with very low TFRs (below 1.5) at present. The overall conclusion is that low to very low fertility in the EU is unlikely to be a temporary phenomenon Copyright 1999 by The Population Council, Inc..

Suggested Citation

  • Ron Lesthaeghe & Paul Willems, 1999. "Is Low Fertility a Temporary Phenomenon in the European Union?," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 25(2), pages 211-228.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:popdev:v:25:y:1999:i:2:p:211-228

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