MPIDR Working Paper

Is a positive relationship between fertility and economic development emerging at the sub-national regional level? Theoretical considerations and evidence from Europe

Fox, J. F., Klüsener, S., Myrskylä, M.

MPIDR Working Paper WP-2015-006, 44 pages (November 2015).
Rostock, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research

Keywords: Europe, economic development, fertility


Evidence for nation-states suggests that the long-standing negative relationship between fertility and economic development turns positive at high levels of development. Here we investigate whether such a turnaround could also occur at the sub-national regional level in highly developed countries. In the theoretical section we discuss important trends that might foster the emergence of a positive relationship within such countries. Our empirical analysis focuses on Europe, which is comprised of a number of highly developed countries with comparatively high fertility levels. We investigate data for 20 countries between 1990 and 2012. Using panel regression techniques, we find evidence for the emergence of a positive—or, at the very least, less negative—relationship between fertility and economic development within many countries. These findings do not seem to be driven by postponement effects alone. Moreover, the results indicate that there is substantial variation in the fertility and the economic development levels at which such tendencies toward a reversal are observed.