Fertility change in the context of economic recession in Italy and Spain: population composition and sub-national geographies

Elspeth Graham, University of St Andrews
Albert Sabater, University of St Andrews
Francesca Fiori, University of St Andrews

This paper investigates macro-level fertility trends over the past decade in two Southern European countries, Italy and Spain, in which economic recession has been accompanied by marked declines in period total fertility rates. It addresses a gap in the literature by examining the contribution of changes in population composition to fertility trends before and after the economic downturn of 2008, and in particular, the contribution of migration to compositional change. National and sub-national (NUTS-2) data drawn from vital statistics, population estimates and censuses are used to investigate recent macro-level fertility trends by decomposing national fertility rates by age group, population group (citizenship/migration status) and geography. The results reveal that there are marked differences in the contributions of different age and population groups to national-level fertility trends, and that these contributions also vary geographically between and within Italy and Spain. In both countries, women at older ages within the fertile age range have contributed significantly less than women at younger ages to post-2008 declines in fertility. Furthermore, whereas in Italy women who are non-nationals have contributed more to the decline in total fertility rate than women who are nationals, the opposite is found in Spain. Finally, we demonstrate that structural change in the composition of the population plays a role in fertility declines both nationally and regionally in Spain, but not in Italy. Since the majority of past empirical studies on the decomposition of fertility trends have been conducted at the national scale, these findings are important not only because they reveal differences between age and population groups but also between and within-country variations in fertility after the economic crisis of 2008. The paper concludes that macro-level analysis is valuable for identifying the contribution of those whose response to economic uncertainty is to migrate and who are therefore ‘lost to view’.

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Presented in Session 5: Recession and fertility