Coordinator(s): Senior Researcher Lars Dommermuth (Statistics Norway)
In the aftermath of the great recession in 2008, a strong decline in fertility rates has been observed in many western societies, including the Nordic countries. This fertility decline persists until today and the Nordic countries have switched from being societies with the highest fertility levels in Europe to be around or below the average. In recent years, the total fertility rate has reached a historic low in several of the Nordic countries. The great recession may has initiated this development, but since several years, most macro-economic indicators have indicated an upswing. Thus, popular theories about the negative impact of economic recessions on fertility are not able to explain the current development. Further, the Nordic countries are commonly defined as a kind of role model for a modern labour market and family policy, promoting a dual-earner breadwinner model for parent and an active role for fathers in childcare. This context has commonly been described as an important basis for the comparative high fertility levels in the Nordic countries. However, no drastic cuts or changes in family policies that could explain this decline in fertility were undertaken in recent years.
The societal response to this development has been controversial. Policy makers expressed their concerns for the future of the welfare state. Some economists agreed with this perspective, while other pointed out the general costs of childrearing for societies. And environmental activist emphasized that a decreasing population is good news in times of climate change. But a decline in fertility rates is not only highly relevant on a societal level. The decision to have or not to have a child, is still one of the most important markers in the individual life course. Therefore, a sociological perspective on possible underlying mechanisms of this development is strongly required. Is the decline in fertility an expression of a value change among young adults in the Nordic countries? Do young adults nowadays perceive individual or societal insecurity, preventing them to realize their childbearing intentions? Can we observe a new class divide in the family formation process in the social-democratic Nordic welfare states?
This session calls for new research addressing the causes and consequences of the recent fertility decline in the Nordic countries. Contributions can range across levels of analysis, from macro-level analysis of the impact of global insecurity, to cross-national or regional value changes and to the perceptions of individuals and families in times of transformations. Beside analysis on fertility and childbearing intentions, also contributions related to new trends in union formation and relationship stability, which can affect the occurrence and timing of childbearing, can be submitted to this session.