The Cost of Low Fertility in Europe

Last updated February 2009
 
Authors:
David E. Bloom; David Canning; Günther Fink; Jocelyn E. Finlay
 
Abstract:
We analyze the effect of fertility on income per capita with a particular focus on the experience of Europe. For European countries with below-replacement fertility, the cost of continued low fertility will only be observed in the long run. We show that in the short run, a fall in the fertility rate will lower the youth dependency ratio and increase the working-age share, thus raising income per capita. In the long run, however, the burden of old-age dependency dominates the youth dependency decline, and continued low fertility will lead to small working-age shares in the absence of large migration inflows. We show that the currently very high working-age shares generated by the recent declines in fertility and migration inflows are not sustainable, and that significant drops in the relative size of the working-age population should be expected. Without substantial adjustments in labor force participation or migration policies, the potential negative repercussions on the European economy are large.
 
Contact Information:
D. E. Bloom, dbloom@hsph.harvard.edu, Harvard School of Public Health, Program on the Global Demography of Aging, Cambridge