Here's another interesting paper on the fertility decline: The Emergence of Lowest-Low Fertility in Europe During the 1990s - Hans-Peter Kohler Francesco C. Billari José Antonio Ortega (2002).Here's a hint of what they argue:
Several aspects of this convergence towards low fertility are particularly striking. First, the spread of belowreplacement fertility to formerly high fertility countries has occurred at a remarkably rapid pace and implied a global convergence of fertility indicators that has been quicker than the convergence of many other socioeconomic characteristics. Second, earlier notions that fertility levels may naturally stabilize close to replacement level have been shattered.1 In the early 1990s, for instance, Italy and Spain were the first countries to attain and sustain lowest-low fertility levels, which we define in this paper as total fertility rate (TFR) levels below 1.3, and at the end of the 1990s there were 13 lowest-low fertility countries in Southern, Central and Eastern Europe with a total population of over 370 million persons. Third, recent fertility trends in Europe and other developed countries have been accompanied by a remarkable divergence in the fertility levels, ranging in the late 1990s from lowest-low fertility to TFR levels above 1.7 in France or Denmark and to TFR levels close to 2.1 in the United States.
In this paper we investigate the emergence and persistence of lowest-low fertility in Europe, analyze its demographic patterns and socioeconomic determinants, and address the factors that underlie the divergence of fertility levels in Europe and developed countries more generally. The central thrust of our argument is that the emergence of lowest-low fertility in Europe is due to the combination of five distinct demographic and behavioral factors. First, demographic distortions of period fertility measures, caused by the postponement of fertility and changes in the parity-composition of the population, have reduced the level of period fertility indicators below the associated level of cohort fertility. Second, economic and social changes have made the postponement of fertility a rational response for individuals. Third, social interaction processes affecting the timing of fertility have rendered the population response to these new socioeconomic conditions substantially larger than the direct individual responses. As a consequence, modest socioeconomic changes can explain
the rapid and persistent postponement transitions from early to late age-patterns of fertility that have been associated with recent trends towards low and lowest-low fertility. Fourth, institutional settings in Southern, Central and Eastern European countries have favored an overall low quantum of fertility. Fifth, and finally, postponement-quantum interactions have amplified the consequences of these institutional settings, and they have caused particularly large reductions in completed fertility in lowest-low fertility countries due to the delay of childbearing. Moreover, a differential relevance of postponement-quantum interactions is an important factor contributing to the divergence of European countries into those that have accommodated late childbearing without substantial declines in cohort and period fertility and those that experienced large declines of fertility during the postponement transition. We conclude our paper with a discussion of future scenarios for fertility trends in lowest-low fertility countries and lowest-low 'candidates’.
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