Economic recessions and fertility in the developed world: the Greek case

Anastasia Kostaki, Athens University of Economics and Business
Byron Kotzamanis, University of Thessaly
Pavlos Baltas, Université de Bordeaux

Typically, fertility has a pro-cyclical relationship with economic growth. Recessions often lead to a temporary decline in period fertility levels some years later, partly reflecting a postponement of childbearing that is often later compensated during the period of improved economic conditions. A systematic review of past economic recessions occurred in developed countries confirms that social and economic crises often have serious effects on fertility while, beyond national differentiations, these effects have certain characteristics, e.g. a weak effect on generational fertility; an postponement on the timing of first birth (closely related to a late marriage or union) a close relationship between unemployment and age-specific fertility. The sensitivity of fertility behavior to economic crises is less marked in countries with longstanding family policies and strong social security systems. The recent recession in developed countries took place under different social conditions than previous recessions. The current crisis will last, most likely, longer than previous ones, more women than before are nowadays participating (and competing with men) in the labor market, most couples use reliable contraception that enables them to flexibly postpone their childbearing plans, the mean age at childbearing is extremely high (around 30 years), fertility rates are too low, and welfare systems are getting increasingly burdened by social security and health costs linked to the rapidly expanding number of elderly. All these factors can affect aggregate reproductive decisions, potentially aggravating the negative effects of the recession on fertility. This work, using the latest available official data of Greece (the country that is most affected by the current recession in Europe) provides an investigation of the impact of the current economic crisis on fertility levels, as well as the evolution of these levels through time. Our investigation is based on analysis of the empirical data, provided by the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT).

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 Presented in Session 5. Recession and fertility