Journal Article

Spatial variation in non-marital fertility across Europe in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries: recent trends, persistence of the past, and potential future pathways

Kl├╝sener, S.

The History of the Family, 20:4, 593-628 (2015)


Keywords: Europe, family formation


This article investigates spatiotemporal variation in non-marital fertility across Europe over the last 100 years. In the first 50 years of this period, non-marital fertility was generally declining, reaching very low levels in the mid-twentieth century. But starting in the 1960s, non-marital fertility increased strongly. The main aim of this paper is to investigate to what degree the persistence of the past might be relevant for understanding spatial aspects of the recent rise. A secondary aim is to explore how spatial non-marital fertility variation is likely to develop in the future, both between and within countries. The outcomes support the view that historical patterns are relevant for understanding current non-marital fertility variation in most parts of Europe. However, the persistence of the past varies spatially, and seems to fade over time. The analysis of current trends in spatial variation between countries suggests that an east–west dichotomy is currently emerging: i.e., countries that are not in the European Union and that have Orthodox Christian or Muslim traditions exhibit higher propensities to remain at or to revert to comparatively low levels of non-marital fertility. Within Northwestern Europe, suburban belts around big cities appear to be the last strongholds of marital fertility.