Fertilität und Wohlbefinden

Auf einen Blick Projekte Publikationen Team


Long-Term Perspectives on Crisis and Fertility

Mathias Lerch, Aiva Jasilioniene, Lydia Veronica Palumbo, Christina Bohk-Ewald (MPIDR / University of Helsinki, Finnland); in Zusammenarbeit mit Sebastian Klüsener (Federal Institute for Population Research, Wiesbaden, Deutschland)

Ausführliche Beschreibung

The collapse of the communist systems in 1989 and the recent global recession has spurred research investigating the effects of political and economic downturns on fertility trends. This project takes a long-term perspective by identifying similarities and differences in how various crises affected fertility outcomes over the last 100 years across different countries. A main emphasis is on identifying the heterogeneity of fertility reactions by parity (the number of children already born) and by age. We also aim to assess whether the effects of crises on fertility are temporary or long-lasting, and we evaluate variations by institutional and welfare-state contexts in the fertility reactions to crises.

Fertility in Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries has been sharply decreasing since the end of communism. The reductions in the total number of children women had and the postponement of childbearing were related to economic crisis and economic development. However, much less is known about fertility in the Western Balkans despite the dramatic wars, the economic crises, and the swift subsequent socioeconomic developments this region saw. Applying indirect demographic estimation methods to official statistics and household surveys and censuses, we examined whether this dual economic and political transition triggered similar fertility responses as experienced in other CEE countries. Our results have shown that fertility did not generally decline to lowest-low levels during the 1990s. In the subsequent period of economic growth, marriage and first-birth postponement was limited, and the two-child family continues to be the norm. Childbearing patterns in the Western Balkans were more resilient to the post-communist changes than they were in other CEE countries because of the stronger moral primacy of traditional social institutions and their role as social safety nets.

Another of our studies explains the apparent contradiction between empirical work that finds a negative relationship between unemployment and fertility and theoretical work that emphasizes the lower opportunity costs of childbearing and unemployment. These perspectives are reconciled by distinguishing between two forms of unemployment: structural unemployment and cyclical unemployment, the latter which is a temporary component of unemployment linked to the economic cycle. Applying panel data methods to contemporary time series for a sample of developed countries, our results have shown that higher levels of structural unemployment generally decrease fertility. For some age groups, however, cyclical unemployment has a positive impact on fertility.

A further study focuses on historical parallels in fertility responses between the Great Recession in 2008 and the economic crises in the early 20th Century. By applying indirect demographic estimation techniques to exceptional time series of fertility data by birth order (and age) for two German subregions (the city of Nuremberg and the state of Baden) and US states and covering the period 1900–1949, we present the first research on the effects of historical crises on parity-specific fertility. Preliminary findings have shown that national fertility trends in the US were resilient to the Great Depression. Lower-order birth rates only declined in New York state, Baden and Nuremberg. In Nuremberg, women also postponed and recuperated lower-order births during and after the crisis.


Daten und Erhebungen, Geburtenentwicklung, Projektionen und Vorhersagen

Schlagworte (Region):

Deutschland, Europa, OECD countries


Lerch, M.:
Population Studies 72:2, 217–234. (2018)    
Pifarré i Arolas, H.:
Journal of Population Economics 30:4, 1211–1239. (2017)    
Das Max-Planck-Institut für demografische Forschung (MPIDR) in Rostock ist eines der international führenden Zentren für Bevölkerungswissenschaft. Es gehört zur Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, einer der weltweit renommiertesten Forschungsgemeinschaften.