Does Economic Advancement ‘Cause’ a Re-increase in Fertility?

In a recently published article in European Journal of Population, researchers Olivier Thévenon and Angela Greulich empirically investigate the correlation between fertility and economic development in OECD countries (1960-2007).

In the light of the recent reversal of fertility trends in several highly developed countries, they find that the strong negative correlation between GDP per capita and fertility does no longer hold for high levels of per capita economic output; the relation instead seems to turn into positive from a certain threshold level of economic development on. Survival of an inverse J-shaped association between GDP per capita and fertility is found when controlling for birth postponement, omitted variable bias, non-stationarity and endogeneity. However, gaps between actual and predicted fertility rates show implicitly the importance of factors influencing fertility above and over per capita income. By decomposing GDP per capita into several components, female employment is identified as co-varying factor for the fertility rebound that can be observed in several highly developed countries. Pointing out to important differences with regard to the compatibility between childbearing and female employment, the results suggest that fertility increases are likely to be small if economic development is not accompanied by institutional changes that improve parents’ opportunities to combine work and family life.



A. Luci-Greulich, O. Thévenon (2014): “Does economic development ‘cause’ a re-increase in fertility? An empirical analysis for OECD countries (1960-2007)”, European Journal of Population,  online version January 2014 (doi: 10.1007/s10680-013-9309-2).


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