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Advancing fertility research in contemporary Europe: Theories, patterns and reversals

This theme is most extensive. We will critically review selected theories and explanations of low fertility and analyse which ones are most relevant for explaining fertility trends and differences between countries, regions and social groups in contemporary developed world. We will also investigate fertility and reproduction patterns in contemporary Europe in order to find whether systematic cross-country differences in fertility or reproduction ‘regimes’ can be identified and, if so, what are their defining features. Finally, we will explore recent reversals in the aggregate relationship between many social, economic and cultural indicators on the one hand and fertility rates on the other hand, identify main factors behind these reversals and investigate whether similar reversals can also be observed at an individual level.

Aggregate patterns and developments of fertility intentions in Europe

This theme focuses on a systematic exploration of changes in fertility preferences and their relevance for understanding contemporary fertility. We will collect and analyse survey data for European and selected non-European countries and tackle definition and measurement problems regarding aggregate intentions and desires. We will examine to what extend changes in fertility intentions over time follow or precede changes in fertility rates, whether there is a consistent difference between intended and realized family size and whether we can identify a gradient in intended family size by level of education.

Fertility, migration, and population change: Advancing methods and measurement

This predominantly methodological theme is complementing substantive research specified above. Changes in timing of childbearing strongly affect the conventional period fertility rates. Therefore we aim to elaborate parity-specific indicators of fertility that would reflect the level of fertility (quantum) without being affected by the change in birth timing (tempo). In addition, we will assess new indicators of intergenerational population replacement, which combine the effects of fertility and migration and shed a new light on population prospects in low-fertility countries.

Expanding and sustaining new data infrastructure: the Human Fertility Database and other data

The Human fertility database (HFD), created by the Max Planck Institute of Demographic Research in Rostock and the Vienna Institute of Demography, is now part of the EURREP project. It brings both historic and current data into one platform and makes them widely accessible free of charge. The database provides researchers information on period and cohort fertility, including births, fertility rates and summary indicators, from 18 European countries and the United States. The HFD will grow horizontally by providing data from a larger number of countries, particularly beyond Europe, and vertically by expanding the variety and detail of included data. The EURREP team will also collaborate on developing a companion project, the Human Fertility Collection, with lower level of data detail and documentation, but featuring a wider array of countries, as well as on launching a new database on completed fertility by level of education.