MPIDR Working Paper

Childlessness and the concentration of reproduction in Austria

Spielauer, M.

MPIDR Working Paper WP-2004-028, 21 pages (November 2004).
Rostock, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research

Keywords: Austria, childless couples, first birth


In this paper we study the changes of reproduction concentration among women, the levels of childlessness, individual factors influencing childlessness, and the contribution of childlessness to the concentration of reproduction in Austria for the female age cohorts 1917-1961. International comparative studies find a decline in the concentration of reproduction in the last century for all western countries, a trend that was reversed for the most recent cohorts that have reached the end of their reproductive period. This reversal was mainly triggered by an increase of childlessness, a result that can be confirmed also for Austria. The country has one of the highest levels of childlessness, both currently and historically, and changes in the level of childlessness are very pronounced. Austria has very low fertility, too; between the world wars it even witnessed the lowest period fertility in the world. While cohort fertility rates peaked during the baby-boom with 2.5 children per women, fertility decreased considerably for more recent age cohorts. The recent changes in fertility can be attributed partly to composition effects resulting from the educational expansion of the last decades. As our analysis shows, even in the times of the baby boom, cohort fertility exceeded the reproductive level only for the lowest of eight different educational groups, and this group is rapidly decreasing in size. Besides the strong impact of educational on cohort fertility, childlessness and concentration measures of reproduction, a detailed study based on micro-census data reveals strong urban-rural differentials in the demographic changes of the last decades. We can conclude that the recent re-increase in reproduction concentration is an entirely urban phenomenon. Micro-census data also allow for the study of intergenerational dynamics. Comparing the educational level of women with their parents’ educational attainment, we found a strong positive effect on childlessness of downward mobility in the lower end of the educational spectrum. In the upper end of the educational spectrum we found a strong positive effect on childlessness of upward mobility.