This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

American and French Women are Delaying Births

A few days ago I commented on the finding that American women were having fewer children than they said they wanted. The ink was scarcely dry on that post (so to speak...) when Pew Research reported that their analysis showed that American women were, in fact, just delaying births.
Not only are women more likely to be mothers than in the past, but they are having more children. Overall, women have 2.07 children during their lives on average – up from 1.86 in 2006, the lowest number on record. And among those who are mothers, family size has also ticked up. In 2016, mothers at the end of their childbearing years had had about 2.42 children, compared with a low of 2.31 in 2008.
The recent rise in motherhood and fertility might seem to run counter to the notion that the U.S. is experiencing a post-recession “Baby Bust.” However, each trend is based on a different type of measurement. The analysis here is based on a cumulative measure of lifetime fertility, the number of births a woman has ever had; meantime, reports of declining U.S. fertility are based on annual rates, which capture fertility at one point in time.
The same thing seems to be happening in France, according to this week's Economist. As I've noted before, France's pronatalist policies have enabled the country to avoid the very low fertility levels of several of its European neighbors. The birth rate has dipped a little of late in France, but it may be another case of delaying babies, not necessarily of avoiding them altogether.
It could yet be that, in the coming years, older motherhood in France will make up for the recent fall. As Gilles Pison, a French demographer, points out, this is what happened after a previous child-bearing dip in the 1990s. Despite the sharp recent drop, the French remain among the more enthusiastic procreators in Europe. If the country can revive this breeding instinct, France will be on course, post-Brexit, to overtake Germany as the most populous country in the European Union by the mid-2050s—and for the first time since Bismarck.
Will that thought create a competitive spirit amongst German women? We'll have to wait and see...

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