Low and Lowest-Low Fertility in Europe: Causes, Implications and Policy Options

Hans-Peter Kohler, University of Pennsylvania
José Antonio Ortega, Universidad de Salamanca

This paper analyzes the causes and implications of, and potential policy responses to, low and lowest-low fertility in Europe. Our portrait of contemporary European fertility patterns identifies a systematic pattern of lowest-low fertility that is characterized by a rapid delay of childbearing, a low progression probability after the first child, a ``falling behind'' in cohort fertility at relatively late ages (in Southern Europe). The emergence of lowest-low fertility during the 1990s has also been accompanied by a disruption or even a reversal of many well-known patterns that have been used to explain cross-country differences in fertility patterns. The policy options in response to lowest-low fertility, however, are limited. The existing empirical evidence provides mixed conclusions as to the effects of various policies on fertility behavior, and on balance, that the evidence supports only a weak positive relation between reproductive behavior and a variety of policies.

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Presented in Session 85: Lowest-low Fertility in Comparative Perspective