Sunday, June 17, 2007

Number of women with 3 or more children for the birth cohorts 1935 to 1960 in 6 EU Countries

One factor influencing the birth rate level of a country is the number of women who have children, and in particular the proportion of women having children in what are called the "higher order parities" - ie more than three children. The number of German women giving birth to three or more children is lower than in other European countries. Using data from Eurostat, it can be seen from the graph below that the percentage of families with three and more children already stopped declining with the cohort of women born in 1945. Around one of five German women born between 1945 and 1960 decided to have three children or more, while in France every third woman did.

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It is often assumed that the high rate of childlessness in Germany is the principal reason for Germany's continuiong low birth rate of below 1.5 children per woman. However, breaking down birth rate in terms of first, second, third and fourth children shows that replacement level fertility in France is sustained both by the higher proportion of women who have a child, by very second child fertility rates and by comparatively high fertility rates for birth orders of three and above (see chart below). In Finland and Great Britain there are proportionally as many third and higher order births as in France, but there are fewer first and second order births. As a result, the total fertility rate is 0.2 children per women below replacement. In Germany, birth rates of all orders are low, but while the difference between Germany and France is just 18 children per 100 women due to a higher rate of childlessness, the differences due to lower second, third and forth order births amount to 35 children per 100 women taken collectively. In short, the gap between France and Germany is severely aggravated by the fact that fewer women decide to have two or more children, and is not simply the result of a higher rate of German childlessness.

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