New Empirical Evidence on the Low Fertility Trap Hypothesis

Wolfgang Lutz, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Vegard Skirbekk, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

Recent studies have suggested the existence of a Low Fertility Trap, a downward spiral in the level of fertility for those countries falling below a possible threshold level (Lutz and Skirbekk, 2005; Lutz, Skribekk and Testa, forthcoming). The three main mechanisms that could lead the trap are: negative demographic momentum, declines in ideal family size as a consequence of low actual fertility in the generation before, and declining relative income of young couples. The paper aims to provide further evidence supporting the existence of these self-reinforcing mechanisms by looking at the new data from the Eurobarometer Survey conducted in 2006 and from the Luxembourg Income Study. Preliminary results show that the ideal family size of young women and men in the Southern European countries has been slightly declining over the last five years, as predicted by the low fertility trap. This finding is carefully analyzed in the paper.

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Presented in Session 102: New Perspectives on Low Fertility