MPIDR Working Paper

The end of 'lowest-low' fertility? (with supplementary materials)

Goldstein, J. R., Sobotka, T., Jasilioniene, A.
MPIDR Working Paper WP-2009-029, 58 pages.
Rostock, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (November 2009)
Revised February 2010
Open Access


Period fertility rates fell to previously unseen low levels in a large number of countries beginning in the early 1990s. The persistence of Total Fertility Rates under 1.3 raised the possibility of dramatic, rapid population aging as well as population decline. In an analysis of recent trends, we find, however, a widespread turn-around in so-called “lowest-low” fertility countries. The reversal has been particularly vigorous in Europe. The number of countries with period total fertility rates less than 1.3 fell from 21 in 2003 to five in 2008, of which four (Hong Kong, Korea, Singapore and Taiwan) are in East Asia. Moreover, the upturn in the period TFR was not confined to lowest-fertility countries, but affected the whole developed world. We explore the demographic explanations for the recent rise in fertility stemming from fertility timing effects as well as economic, policy, and social factors. Although the current economic crisis may push down fertility in the short-run, we conclude that formerly lowest-low fertility countries should continue to see further increase in fertility as the transitory effects of shifts to later motherhood become less and less important.
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