Trend of falling cohort birth rates reverses: Women born in 1970s will finally have more babies than previous cohorts

Trend of falling cohort birth rates reverses: Women born in 1970s will finally have more babies than previous cohorts
There will finally be more babies per woman than expected. Credit: the dread

(Medical Xpress)—The average number of children women have over their lifetimes appears to be rising or to have stopped its decline in many countries characterized by low birth rates in the last decades. In many countries, including Germany, the US, the UK, and Japan, cohort fertility has been rising recently for those women born in the 1970s when compared to earlier generations. This is the result of new projections performed by the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock, Germany, for 37 developed countries with a prolonged history of fertility below the replacement-level of 2.1 children per woman.

The forecasts were done with a new method developed by MPIDR Mikko Myrskylä, Joshua Goldstein and Yen-hsin Alice Cheng (now at Academia Sinica in Taiwan) and have now been published in the journal Population and Development Review. They are based on the number of women born in the 1970s have already had together with a continuation of age-specific . The current recession is unlikely to have a major effect on this generation of women, who have already had most of their children. It remains to be seen if the recession will have a lasting effect on the lifetime fertility of younger cohorts.

Forecasted cohort fertility substantially exceeds the number of children per woman which is discussed in public and which demographers call a "period" . Period fertility measures summarize the behavior in a given calendar year by summing up the age-specific fertility rates of all women aged 15 to 49 in that specific calendar year. These women do not form one true cohort of mothers, but an artificial cohort composed of women from 35 different birth years, all behaving a little differently with respect to childbearing. Specifically, the calculation of the period fertility rate does not take into account the fact that each cohort has children slightly later than the last. If this is the case, as for most low fertility countries, the period fertility rate underestimates the cohort fertility rate, which is the true number of children women from a specific birth year have during their whole lives.

Trend of falling cohort birth rates reverses: Women born in 1970s will finally have more babies than previous cohorts
Cohort fertility is forecasted to increase steadily in the English-speaking world. Notable are the continuous gains in the US with cohort fertility exceeding 2.0. The trend reverses from falling to rising birthrates in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland for women born in the 1970s. In Canada the turnaround happens earlier, with the cohorts of the mid-60s. Credit: Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research

For instance, the United States had a period birth rate of 1.9 children per women in 2010 after experiencing a decline below replacement level the years before. However, cohort fertility of women aged 35 in 2010 (i.e. of the 1975 cohort) is forecasted to be 2.2 by the end of their childbearing age.

Cohort fertility is calculated using the woman's year of birth and cannot be exactly computed until the end of their childbearing years. This is generally assumed to be at age 50. Therefore the latest official numbers of lifetime fertility are only available for women born in 1962. But with the new forecasting method by the MPIDR researchers it is now possible to project cohort fertility for even more recent cohorts, those which have not yet completed their childbearing years.

Cohort fertility is rising or stable in 26 out of 37 countries

Cohort fertility has now been forecasted for women born as recently as 1979. According to the forecast, in the majority of countries, 26 out of 37, cohort fertility for the late 1970s cohorts is either increasing or stable. The absolute increases in the number of children per woman will still be small. "The important point is that after decades of falling fertility we see a trend reversal in many countries," says Goldstein. "The long-term fertility decline in the developed world appears to have come to an end in many countries."

Cohort fertility will increase steadily in the English-speaking world. Notable are the gains in the United States and the United Kingdom, both with cohort fertility exceeding 2.0. In the Nordic and Baltic countries the lifetime number of children per woman is remarkably stable, and in Continental Europe it shows signs of reversed direction from decline to rise. In Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean, decades of decrease appear to be coming to an end.

Against the general trend average cohort fertility is still falling in East Asia. But even there the decline is slowing. Cohort fertility has increased slightly for recent cohorts in Japan, which has historically been a demographic trendsetter for the region. "It remains to be seen when declines will stop in these countries," says MPIDR demographer Mikko Myrskylä. (See extra data sheet for graphs with all 37 country forecasts).

Among the 37 countries, 19 had experienced period birth rates lower than 1.3 by 2009, a threshold often termed "lowest-low" fertility. On the contrary, cohort fertility averages to 1.77 children for women born in 1975 for all 37 nations. "These differences suggest that much of the observed very low fertility has been attributable to later, not less, childbearing," says Joshua Goldstein. Thus very low period birthrates are to large parts a mathematical effect generated by the ongoing postponement of parenthood. But that postponement does not mean parents can't have their desired number of children later in life. And they do so to a larger extent than the low period birth rates suggest.

"Fertility trends are notoriously hard to forecast," says Joshua Goldstein. "The recent end of a decline in cohort fertility signals an important turning point which makes some of the current long-term fertility forecasts, such as 1.3 for Japan and 1.4 for Germany, seem considerably less likely," says Goldstein.

Explore further

Low fertility in Europe -- is there still reason to worry?

More information: Myrskala, M. et al. New Cohort Fertility Forecasts for the Developed World, Population and Development Review. … 457.2013.00572.x/pdf
Provided by Max Planck Society
Citation: Trend of falling cohort birth rates reverses: Women born in 1970s will finally have more babies than previous cohorts (2013, March 22) retrieved 19 August 2019 from
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Feedback to editors

User comments

Mar 22, 2013
Commonly people who discuss demographics (pundits and such) have not been aware that total fertility rates exaggerates changes in (either up or down) current rates while ignoring changes in those rates. Now many will claim that the "changes" in fertility rates are being caused by immigrants (Mexicans, Muslims and migrants) but their fertility rates are dropping faster than owns did--both in host countries and back home). Moreover, in most places their numbers are not sufficient to produce the changes seen.

Demographic doom is another scary story that our elite sell us to keep us occupied. Same with Muslims out breeding the infidels and Mexicans colonizing America. I'm not saying there are not real challenges caused by immigration and there are some nations with problems caused by aging populations (Russia wasn't discussed). But while we watch for the sky to fall, Foxy Loxy is eating through trillions and trillions of the wealth of future generations.

Mar 22, 2013
The problem is Mexicans and Muslims actually ARE colonizing America.

A larger share of the legal immigrants come from Islamic background, and most of the illegal Immigrants each year (nearly half of the total immigrant population,) come from Hispanic countries.

Since that's about a half million illegals per year, t hen by the time you figure child bearing, then over say 50 years, you could expect the U.S. population to increase by 75 to 100 million or more from NEW ILLEGAL immigrants and their descendants alone.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more