Childless Societies? Trends and Projections of Childlessness in Europe and the United States

Tomas Sobotka, Vienna Institute of Demography

Using period and cohort fertility data for 17 European countries and the United States, this paper analyzes and projects trends in final childlessness among women born between 1940 and 1975. Two basic scenarios of lifetime childlessness are presented for women born after 1955. Both of these scenarios combine the most recent set of exposure-based indicators of age-specific fertility with the data on age-parity composition of the female population. The presented scenarios reveal that lifetime childlessness will increase gradually in almost all industrialised countries, although the timing and the magnitude of this change varies across countries. The scenarios for the United States indicate a slight decline in final childlessness, deviating from the projected trend in other countries. In the high-childlessness regions—West Germany, Austria, and England and Wales—final childlessness among women born after 1970 is likely to come close to 25%, and will almost certainly remain below 30%.

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Presented in Session 98: Low Fertility in Europe and Its Consequences