MPIDR Working Paper

The public perception and discussion of falling birth rates: the recent debate over low fertility in the popular press

Stark, L., Kohler, H.-P.
MPIDR Working Paper WP-2000-009
Rostock, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (October 2000)
Also published as: The debate over low fertility in the popular press: a cross-national comparison; 1998-1999. In: Population Research and Policy Review 21(2002)6, 535-574.
Open Access


Aspects of below-replacement fertility have long been debated among academics. Analyzing 437 popular newspaper and magazine articles from eleven developed countries during 1998-99, this study documents and investigates the corresponding public debate about low fertility. Despite the diversity in the debates of eleven countries, due to the countries´ different socioeconomic, political and demographic backrounds, our study finds important commonalties of the public debates about low fertility: First, countries emphasize consequences and potential interventions rather than causes in their public debate over lover fertility. Second, our study undoubtedly reveals that the public media perceives low fertility as a serious concern with mostly negative implications, despite the fact that many of the causes of low fertility are associated with social and economic progress. Third, the variety of issues and perspectives revealed in the public debate, while cohesive in general ways, invites a role for demographers in informing an accurate public discussion of low fertility, which will help form the most appropriate policy outcomes. (AUTHORS)
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.