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Fertility, reproduction and population change in 21st Century Europe

Final Report Summary - EURREP (Fertility, reproduction and population change in 21st Century Europe)

The five-year project Fertility, reproduction and population change in 21st century Europe (EURREP) analysed key issues related to fertility and family change and their implications in low-fertility societies. We paid particular attention to the way cohort fertility rates, family size, and fertility intentions are structured by level of education. An overview of the project aims, complete publication list, presentations, data, and other information are available on the project website, The website also contains an accessible summary of key findings and conclusions of the project ( which provides more details on the achievements described below.

The project comprised four broad themes. Here we summarise their main topics researched.

Theme 1: Advancing fertility research in contemporary Europe: Theories, patterns and reversals

This theme was the most extensive, linking theoretical and empirical perspectives on fertility change across countries and regions. We have revisited selected theories and explanations of low fertility, focusing especially on cohort fertility. This work was also connected with a research on the likely future fertility trends, which combined detailed expert assessments with the analyses of the national and global fertility projections.

On the macro-level, we explored the long-term trends in cohort fertility and in childlessness across Europe (and in selected non-European countries), and how they were linked to growing education attainment. Besides the education dimension, we have studied the link between rising gender equality (“gender revolution”) and the reversals in fertility and family behaviour. In addition, we have analysed the effects of the recent economic recession on fertility and marriage across Europe. Several papers also studied the micro-level foundation of the fertility-education relationship, including the research on couples’ educational pairings and fertility in Europe.

Our policy-relevant research involved a systematic attempt to summarise three dimensions (family policies, labour market structures and gender norms) of country-specific conditions in work and family reconciliation into a single index that can be used in quantitative comparative research. Furthermore, we have employed microsimulation to assess the influence of rising family instability on family size among women and how it is affected by age at partnership formation and other characteristics.

Theme 2: Aggregate patterns and developments of fertility intentions in Europe

This theme focused on a systematic exploration of lifetime fertility preferences among women. We reviewed data on the ideal family size across Europe during the last four decades and analysed the differences between reproductive intentions at younger ages and realized fertility later in life and their stratification by level of education.

Theme 3: Fertility, migration, and population change: Advancing methods and measurement

This theme had a strong methodological and theoretical focus, including an elaboration of a new indicator of population replacement, the Overall Replacement Ratio, ORR. This research has been complemented by an analysis of the recent changes in migrant fertility across Europe.

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

The data work in this theme provided a solid empirical foundation for the research conducted within the other three themes. Three major open-access databases have been developed or considerably expanded. The first two are a joint initiative with the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock:

• The Human Fertility Database (HFD, the most detailed and well-documented collection of period and cohort fertility data and indicators, has been expanded and further developed, also with the view of providing easier access to the main indicators
• The Human Fertility Collection (HFC; has been newly launched in 2013 to incorporate a variety of period fertility data, reaching a 100-country threshold in 2016.
• The Cohort Fertility and Education Database (CFE, is the only open-access collection of standardised cohort fertility data by level of education, covering data from 56 censuses and large-sample surveys conducted in 24 countries.

The EURREP team aimed to disseminate selected results and data to broader public, journalists and policymakers. These activities included the EURREP Research Briefs ( which provide accessible summaries of the key research results, and the European Fertility Datasheet 2015 ( a print and online publication which summarises, visualizes, maps and communicates the key fertility trends for all countries in Europe.