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High development and fertility: Fertility at older reproductive ages and gender equality explain the positive link

Number: 49
Year: 2011
Author(s): Mikko Myrskylä, Hans-Peter Kohler, Francesco C. Billari
Keywords: low fertility,socioeconomic development,Human Development Index,gender equality
A fundamental switch in the fertilitydevelopment relationship has occurred so that among highly developed countries, further socioeconomic development may reverse the declining fertility trend. Here we shed light on the mechanisms underlying this reversal by analyzing the links between development and age and cohort patterns of fertility, as well as the role of gender equality. Using data from 1975 to 2008 for over 100 countries, we show that the reversal exists both in a period and a cohort perspective and is mainly driven by increasing older reproductive-age fertility. We also show that the positive impact of development on fertility in high-development countries is conditional on gender equality: countries ranking high in development as measured by health, income, and education but low in gender equality continue to experience declining fertility. Our findings suggest that gender equality is crucial for countries wishing to reap the fertility dividend of high development.

Mikko Myrskylä

Max Planck Institute for Demongraphic Research


Hans-Peter Kohler

University of Pennsylvania, Population Studies Center


Francesco C. Billari

Universita Bocconi, Dondena Centre for Research on Social Dynamics


Keywords: low fertility, socioeconomic development, Human Development Index, gender equality


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