Demographic Patterns in Europe. A review of Austria, Germany, The Netherlands, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania
Since the Second World War demographic behaviour has changed dramatically in the industrialised world. Marriage and fertility rates have declined substantially and total fertility rates have reached unprecedented low levels. All European countries (except Iceland and Turkey) now have fertility levels well below the replacement level. Divorce rates, non-marital cohabitation and extramarital fertility, on the other hand, have increased significantly, as has the age at first marriage and first birth. However, when and at which speed, these changes have occurred has varied greatly between different countries. The new pattern of development, genereally referred to as the "second demographic transition", appeared in Northern and Western Europe in the mid 1960s and then spread to the Southern countries, and more recently to the Eastern parts of Europe. In this overview I discuss the demographic development in Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, Estonia, Latvia , and Lithuania since the 1960s. The issues I focus on are: transition to adulthood (mainly the act of leaving parental home), partnership and fertility. I also present different explanations for the demographic changes. Some explanations deal with economic aspects such as the increased labour force participation and autonomy of women. Regarding the rapid demographic changes in the post-socialist states in Eastern Europe most explanations focus on the economic and social hardship following the collapse of the system. For Western Europe, cultural explanations such as values, secularisation and greater acceptance towards e.g. divorce and non-marital cohabitation, are used to a higher extent.
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