Receding Economy Recedes Fertility

Fertility changes with economic changes

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Money talks, and educated people listen. Raising children is expensive, and intelligent, forward-thinking individuals are less likely to procreate in the current uncertain economy.

A recent European study indicates that well-educated people in developed economies are much more likely to delay family planning when the economy is uncertain. Uneducated women, however, maintain or increase fertility, even given the economic ambivalence.

"Consider your economic circumstance before conceiving a child."

Tomáš Sobotka, from the Vienna Institute of Demography of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (VID), reports that this new study shows economic recessions tend to be followed by a decline in fertility rates.

The 2008-2009 global economic recession brought a sudden trend reversal to the previous pattern of rising fertility rates in several highly developed countries, like Spain and the United States. A larger group of countries including England and Wales, Ireland, Italy, and Ukraine experienced not lower fertility rates, but a stagnation in fertility rates, which followed a decade of rising fertility from 1998 and beyond.

The study also found that individual experiences of the recession vary by age, education level, number of children, sex and migrant status.

Sobotka commented that there appear to be specific patterns of behavior going on during and after recessions. The young and childless are much less inclined to have children during recessions.

Women with the highest education levels often adopt a postponement strategy, particularly if they are still childless. An interesting contrast involves less educated women: This group maintains or increases childbearing, even in economic uncertainty.

These patterns differ greatly for men. Those with a low education level face difficulty finding a female partner and a diminished ability to provide for a family. These men are experiencing the biggest decline in first child births.

The most recent global economic recession, which began in 2008, has brought an end to the first concerted continual rise in fertility rates since the 1960s. Of the 27 countries in the European Union, fertility rates increased in all countries except Luxembourg, where stagnation in fertility rates was experienced.

As the effects of the recession rippled into Europe, 13 countries saw their fertility rates decline and four countries found their fertility rates stabilize. A rise in unemployment and job insecurity was a major factor behind this trend. Many developed countries were forced to cut social spending in order to address budget deficits brought on by the recession.

This research was published in the journal Population and Development Review.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
June 28, 2011
Last Updated:
July 4, 2011