"The measurement of this fertility rate picks up a slightly different picture than we get looking at women's actual reproductive histories," Bongaarts says. Women choosing to defer births to older ages temporarily contribute to today's baby bust (which reflects the measurement of the number of babies born each year), just as younger childbearing ages in the 1950s temporarily contributed to a baby boom. If women in a given country have the same number of children in their lifetime, but later in their lives than their predecessors, this will appear to be a reduction in annual birth statistics. Family size may in fact not be changing in nearly as dramatic a fashion as is suggested by the year-over-year aggregate birth statistics.
"These distortions," comments Bongaarts, "are temporary because they exist only while the age at childbearing is rising. Once women stop deferring births, the distortion disappears and the very low fertility rates observed in the developed world should rise closer to the 2 children most couples want."
For example, in France the annual total fertility rate has been reported to be well below the replacement level since the mid-1970s, but in actuality French women who have reached the end of their childbearing years report having 2.1 births on average, close to the preferred number.
Similar Discrepancies Exist In Many Other Developed Countries
In the U.S., fertility rose from 1.77 to 2.08 births per woman between 1975 and
1990 as the postponement of births stopped. It is therefore plausible to assume
that fertility in Europe and Japan will not decline further and might even turn
upward soon. It is unlikely, however, that fertility in these countries will
rise all the way to replacement level because various constraints (e.g. divorce,
desire to remain employed, rising costs of children, involuntary childlessness)
prevent some couples from reaching their desi
Contact: Christina Horzepa