Journal Article

New cohort fertility forecasts for the developed world: rises, falls, and reversals

Myrskylä, M., Goldstein, J. R., Cheng, Y. A.

Population and Development Review, 39:1, 31-56 (2013)

Keywords: World, cohort fertility, developed areas, forecasts


With period fertility having risen in many low birth-rate countries, an important emerging question is whether cohort fertility trends are also reversing. We produce new estimates of cohort fertility for 37 developed countries using a new, simple method that avoids the underestimation typical of previous approaches. Consistent with the idea that timing changes were largely responsible for the last decades’ low period fertility, we find that family size has remained considerably higher than the period rates of 1.5 in many "low fertility" countries, averaging about 1.8 children. Our forecasts suggest that the long-term decline in cohort fertility seen in recent decades is flattening or reversing in many world regions previously characterized by low fertility. We document the marked increase of cohort fertility in the English-speaking world and in Scandinavia, signs of an upwards reversal in many low fertility countries, including Japan and Germany, and continued declines in countries including Taiwan and Portugal. We include in our forecasts estimates of statistical uncertainty and the possible effects of the recent recession.