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Patterns of low and lowest-low fertility in Europe

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In this paper we conduct descriptive aggregate analyses to revisit the relationship of low and lowest-low period fertility to cohort fertility and key fertility-related behaviour such as leaving the parental home, marriage, and women's labour force participation. Our analyses show that the cross-country correlations in Europe between total fertility and the total first marriage rate, the proportion of extramarital births, and the labour force participation of women reversed during the period from 1975 to 1999. By the end of the 1990s there was also no longer evidence that divorce levels were negatively associated with fertility levels. We argue that lowest-low fertility has been particularly associated with a 'falling behind' of cohort fertility at higher birth orders and later ages. From these analyses we conclude that the emergence of lowest-low fertility during the 1990s was accompanied by a disruption or even a reversal of many well-known relationships that have been used to explain cross-country differences in fertility patterns.
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Keywords: Europe; cohort fertility; convergence; labour force participation; low fertility; marriage

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Pennsylvania

Publication date: July 1, 2004

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