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Religion and Fertility in Western Europe: Trends Across Cohorts in Britain, France and the Netherlands


  • Nitzan Peri-Rotem

    () (University of Cambridge)


Abstract The role of religion in explaining fertility differences is often overlooked in demographic studies, particularly in Western Europe, where there has been a substantial decline in institutional forms of religious adherence. The current study explores the changing relationships between religion and childbearing in Britain, France and the Netherlands. Using data from the Generations and Gender Programme and the British Household Panel Survey, religious differences in completed fertility and the transition to first birth are explored across cohorts of women. In addition, a longitudinal analysis is employed to examine the influence of religion on subsequent childbearing. Although the secularization paradigm assumes that the influence of religion on individual behavior will diminish over time, it is found that religious affiliation and practice continue to be important determinants of fertility and family formation patterns. However, there is some variation in the relationship between religion and fertility across countries; while in France and the Netherlands fertility gaps by religiosity are either consistent or increasing, in Britain, this gap appears to have narrowed over time. These findings suggest that fertility differences by religion also depend on the particular social context of religious institutions in each country.

Suggested Citation

  • Nitzan Peri-Rotem, 2016. "Religion and Fertility in Western Europe: Trends Across Cohorts in Britain, France and the Netherlands," European Journal of Population, Springer;European Association for Population Studies, vol. 32(2), pages 231-265, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:eurpop:v:32:y:2016:i:2:d:10.1007_s10680-015-9371-z
    DOI: 10.1007/s10680-015-9371-z

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Kevin McQuillan, 2004. "When Does Religion Influence Fertility?," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 30(1), pages 25-56, March.
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    3. Ron Lesthaeghe, 2010. "The Unfolding Story of the Second Demographic Transition," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 36(2), pages 211-251, June.
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    5. Caroline Berghammer, 2012. "Church attendance and childbearing: Evidence from a Dutch panel study, 1987-2005," Population Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 66(2), pages 197-212, July.
    6. Ross Stolzenberg & Mary Blair-Loy & Linda J. Waite, "undated". "Religious Participation Over the Early Life Course: Age and Family Life Cycle Effects on Church Membership," University of Chicago - Population Research Center 94-14, Chicago - Population Research Center.
    7. Brienna Perelli-Harris & Michaela R. Kreyenfeld & Wendy Sigle-Rushton & Renske Keizer & Trude Lappegård & Aiva Jasilioniene & Caroline Berghammer & Paola Di Giulio & Katja Köppen, 2009. "The increase in fertility in cohabitation across Europe: examining the intersection between union status and childbearing," MPIDR Working Papers WP-2009-021, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany.
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    Cited by:

    1. Barbara S. Okun, 2017. "Religiosity and Fertility: Jews in Israel," European Journal of Population, Springer;European Association for Population Studies, vol. 33(4), pages 475-507, October.


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