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The Emergence of Lowest‐Low Fertility in Europe During the 1990s

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  • Hans‐Peter Kohler
  • Francesco C. Billari
  • José Antonio Ortega

Abstract

Lowest‐low fertility, defined as a period total fertility rate at or below 1.3, has rapidly spread in Europe during the 1990s. This article traces the emergence of this new phenomenon to the interaction of five factors. First, tempo and compositional distortions reduce the total fertility rate below the associated level of cohort fertility. Second, socioeconomic changes—including increased returns to human capital and high economic uncertainty in early adulthood—have made late childbearing a rational response for individuals and couples. Third, social interaction effects reinforce this behavioral adjustment and contribute to large and persistent postponement in the mean age at birth. Fourth, institutional settings favor an overall low quantum of fertility. Fifth, postponement–quantum interactions amplify the consequences of this institutional setting when combined with ongoing delays of child‐bearing. The article concludes with speculations about future trends in current and prospective lowest‐low‐fertility countries.

Suggested Citation

  • Hans‐Peter Kohler & Francesco C. Billari & José Antonio Ortega, 2002. "The Emergence of Lowest‐Low Fertility in Europe During the 1990s," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 28(4), pages 641-680, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:popdev:v:28:y:2002:i:4:p:641-680
    DOI: 10.1111/j.1728-4457.2002.00641.x
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Kohler, Hans-Peter, 2001. "Fertility and Social Interaction: An Economic Perspective," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199244591.
    2. Francesco C. Billari & Hans-Peter Kohler, 2002. "Patterns of lowest-low fertility in Europe," MPIDR Working Papers WP-2002-040, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany.
    3. Lokshin, Michael & Ravallion, Martin, 2000. "Short-lived shocks with long-lived impacts? - household income dynamics in a transition economy," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2459, The World Bank.
    4. José A. Ortega & Hans-Peter Kohler, 2002. "Measuring low fertility: rethinking demographic methods," MPIDR Working Papers WP-2002-001, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany.
    5. Hans-Peter Kohler & Axel Skytthe & Kaare Christensen, 2001. "The age at first birth and completed fertility reconsidered: findings from a sample of identical twins," MPIDR Working Papers WP-2001-006, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany.
    6. Olga Cantó-Sánchez & Magda Mercader-Prats, "undated". "Poverty among children and youth in Spain: The role of parents and youth employment status," Studies on the Spanish Economy 46, FEDEA.
    7. Annette Kohlmann & Sergej M. Zuev, 2001. "Patterns of childbearing in Russia 1994 - 1998," MPIDR Working Papers WP-2001-018, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany.
    8. Grootaert, Christiaan & Braithwaite, Jeanine, 1998. "Poverty correlates and indicator-based targeting in Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1942, The World Bank.
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