MPIDR Working Paper

High development and fertility: fertility at older reproductive ages and gender equality explain the positive link

Myrskylä, M., Kohler, H.-P., Billari, F. C.
MPIDR Working Paper WP-2011-017, 55 pages.
Rostock, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (October 2011)
Revised November 2013
Open Access


A fundamental reversal of the traditional fertility-development relationship has occurred in highly developed countries so that further socioeconomic development is no longer associated with decreasing fertility, but with increasing fertility. In this paper, we seek to shed light on the mechanisms underlying this reversal by analyzing data from 1975 to 2008 for over 100 countries. We find that the reversal exists from both the period and the cohort perspectives, and is mainly driven by increasing fertility at older reproductive ages. Further, the reversal is only partially explained by changes in the timing of fertility. However, the positive impact of development on fertility is conditional on gender equality: countries that rank high in development as measured by health, income, and education, but low in gender equality, continue to experience declining fertility. This finding demonstrates the importance of work-family balance in shaping fertility at older reproductive ages.
Keywords: World, developed areas, equal opportunity, fertility, gender, low fertility zones
The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.