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Economic crisis lowers birth rates

Rising unemployment rates have halted upward trend of births in Europe

Ingrid Torjesen

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

The economic crisis has stemmed rising birth rates in Europe over the last decade, an analysis published in Demographic Research shows.

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock, Germany found that on average, the more the unemployment rose, the greater the decrease in fertility compared to the number of children per women expected without the crisis.

The largest effect was seen in young adults aged under 25. The drop of children per woman was strongest for first births suggesting starting a family is being postponed.

MPIDR demographer Michaela Kreyenfeld said: “Fertility plans can be revised more easily at younger ages than at ages where the biological limits of fertility are approaching.”

The consequences of the recession began to appear around 2008. “The financial crisis hit Europe at a time when birth rates in many countries had just began rising again,” Ms Kreyenfeld said. “In some countries the crisis has just put a halt on the upward trend, in others birth rates actually declined.”

The impact was greatest in Spain. Starting at a rate of 1.24 children per woman at the beginning of the millennium, fertility rose every year to 1.47 in 2008. In 2009, however, the birth rate dropped to 1.40 after the unemployment rate jumped from 8.3 per cent in 2008 to 11.3 per cent in 2009. Spanish fertility continued falling to 1.36 in 2011. Distinct falls were also seen in Hungary, Ireland, Croatia and Latvia.

Formerly growing rates also came to a halt in countries such as the Czech Republic, Poland, the United Kingdom and Italy.

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