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Towards a theory of lowest-low fertility


  • Hans-Peter Kohler

    (Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany)

  • José A. Ortega
  • Francesco C. Billari

    (Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany)


Lowest-low fertility, defined as a period total fertility rate below 1.3, has rapidly spread in Europe during the 1990s and is likely to expand further. In this paper we argue that the emergence and persistence of this new phenomenon is due to the combination and interaction of four factors. First, tempo- and compositional distortions reduce the TFR below the associated level of cohort fertility, and these distortions can be quantified with appropriate adjusted measures. Second, late childbearing has become a rational response to increased returns to human capital and high economic uncertainty in early adulthood. Third, social interaction reinforces the behavioral adjustment of individuals, and it can lead to postponement transitions with large and persistent changes in the mean age at birth. Fourth, delayed childbearing is associated with postponement-quantum interactions that reduce completed fertility. We conclude the paper with some speculations about future trends in lowest-low fertility countries and candidates.

Suggested Citation

  • Hans-Peter Kohler & José A. Ortega & Francesco C. Billari, 2001. "Towards a theory of lowest-low fertility," MPIDR Working Papers WP-2001-032, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:dem:wpaper:wp-2001-032

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    Cited by:

    1. YOUM Yoosik, 2011. "A Network Approach to the Economic Models of Fertility," Discussion papers 11062, Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry (RIETI).

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    JEL classification:

    • J1 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics
    • Z0 - Other Special Topics - - General


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