Journal Article

Spatial aspects of the rise of nonmarital fertility across Europe since 1960: the role of states and regions in shaping patterns of change

Klüsener, S., Perelli-Harris, B., Sánchez Gassen, N. E.

European Journal of Population, 29:2, 137-165 (2013)


Keywords: Europe, fertility, geography, nuptiality, spatial analysis


This article investigates the role of states and regions in shaping spatial patterns of nonmarital fertility in Europe since 1960 using a dataset of 497 European subnational regions and smaller countries. Almost all regions registered substantial nonmarital fertility increases over the last 50 years. Prior research has shown that in the first half of the twentieth century states played a dominant role in drawing the demographic map of Europe (Watkins, From provinces into nations: demographic integration in Western Europe 1870–1960. Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1991). As a result, subnational regional variation decreased, while differences between countries increased. In this article, we investigate whether states continue to play such a dominant role in delineating patterns of nonmarital fertility between 1960 and 2007. We find that variation in nonmarital fertility levels increased as a whole across Europe, and states continued to be important for determining these patterns. However, the role of states relative to regions declined in the latest period examined (1990 and 2007). Possible explanations for the changes include increased supranational integration, for example, within the European Union, and decentralisation within states leading to increases in variation in subnational contextual conditions.