IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

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


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


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. Copyright 2002 by The Population Council, Inc..

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.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:popdev:v:28:y:2002:i:4:p:641-680

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    File Function: link to full text
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Kohler, Hans-Peter, 2001. "Fertility and Social Interaction: An Economic Perspective," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199244591, June.
    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. 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.
    4. 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.
    5. 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.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:bla:popdev:v:28:y:2002:i:4:p:641-680. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Wiley-Blackwell Digital Licensing) or (Christopher F. Baum). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.