Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Tomas Sobotka on Fertility Trends in Europe

Today I would like to recommend to you a power point presentation by Tomas Sobotka, entitled Fertility Trends in Europe, and I want to recommend it because it gives a really clear and accessible summary of the state of the art in the ongoing debate about the whys and wherefores of contemporary European fertility. In this sense this post is really a companion and follow up to my earlier review of European fertility (and here, and here) which was basically itself a review of an extensive article in the Economist on the topic.

Sobotka's interest in the presentation is primarily in what has come to be known as the Second Demographic Transition (SDT), and the principal question he wants to ask is whether below-replacement fertility an inevitable outcome of this transition? His conclusion is that it isn't. My feeling is, however, that at this point in time this is an almost impossible question to answer, since we are still a long way from knowing what will be the ultimate resting point of both the mothers age at first childbirth and long term completed cohort fertility. Sobotka gives a very extensive and exhaustive summary of many of the current arguments about the SDT, and some of his findings are even surprising, but in this post I would like to neatly sidetep such issues and instead focus on two major topics which also feature prominently in his exposition - a) "missing births" and "replacement migration" and b) "differential fertility" between the different regions of Europe and the uneven economic impacts of these.

Birth Postponement and Missing births

Now Tomas Sobotka is an extremly able and interesting young demographer, and his recent PhD Thesis "Postponement of childbearing and low fertility in Europe" (which is very readable for a piece of academic research and is online in its entirety here) is the best general introduction available to this important topic which lies at the heart of the whole low fertility problem. Postponement, we should recall, is simply the process whereby mothers start having children at ever later ages. During the years in which this process runs its course (and we still do not really know yet where the upper limit is here), a phenomenon known as the "birth dearth" occurs, since considerably fewer children are actually born and unusually low readings are registered on the "period" Total Fertility Rate indicator.

You could think of this process as being in some ways similar to the recent structural rise in energy prices (if thinking like this helps you at all), since annual inflation rates have registered very high readings as energy prices have become steadily more expensive when compared with other goods, but of course, once they reach their new higher levels (assuming they stay there) the sheer fact that they are high is not in itself inflationary (although, and as with the high first birth ages, there may be other consequences) so the monthly year on year CPI readings once more settle down again (in this case to their old lower level) after the structural transition is completed. And so it is with the period (which just means as measured during a certain period of time) TFRs.

As is illustrated in the chart below - which comes from Wolfgang Lutz - an increase in the mean age of childbearing results in a lasting loss of births, unless the childbearing age for some reason were to decrease again, and it is this lasting loss of births that causes so many structural problems in shape of the population pyramid. The resulting need to compensate in some form or another for these missing births has lead Sobotka to slightly redifine the idea of "replacement migration" as it was originally advanced by the UN population division (and here) to mean a short term injection of people into the 25 to 40 age group to both make up for earlier "missing births" and to compensate for the current deficit since people in this age group are liable to have chiuldren (more on all of this below). Since immigration is such a politically sensitive issue this may be a much more plausible and palatable way of presenting the problem of correcting structural population damage.

Now I have gone on at some length about all this "birth postponement" rigmorole, since if you don't "get" this bit (ie that women are having children later, and that this affects the shape of the population pyramid regardless of the level at which cohort fertility ultimately settles down) then you are going to struggle with the rest of the arguments in the Sobotka presentation and you are not really going to see why having reduced fertility over an extended period of time is any sort of big deal at all.

Three ‘stylised facts’ on European fertility

As is by now reasonably well known, at the present point in time the United States and France are the only two developed countries which have managed to recover something near the magic 2.1 Tfr replacement number. We have therefore few strong reasons to believe, and indeed we may well have a good many reasons to doubt, that a significant number of countries globally will finally prove capable of retaining replacement fertility. However, as I suggest above, any conslusions we reach here need to be extremely tentative, since in the longer term "path dependent" processes may well come into play, whereby what happens tomorrow and the day after may well exert significant influence on what gets to happen in 2030 or 2040, and given that none of this has ever happened before, and that we therefore have no precedents, all conclusions need to be very guarded and open to continuous modification.

It is really for this sort of reason that we on this blog tend to focus on the here and now, and try to analyse and interpret the impact of low fertility on the present dynamics of those countries which have had below replacement fertility over an extended period of time, and especially on the economic and social dynamics of the countries in question. Whatever the impact of below replacement fertility in the longer term, our present experience shoud be able to offer a useful yardstick with which to guide and orient our deliberations.

In this context Sobotka offers us three "stylised facts" about European fertility. These are:

1/. Fertility rates in Europe are very low and further declining

2/. Current low fertility will necessarily lead to a rapid population ageing and to a decline in population size

3/. These trends are unsustainable in the long run and constitute serious threats to economy, labour market, welfare system, and thus also to the foundations of European societies

Truth be said, Sobotka is none too sure about any of these, even if, as he notes, ideas such as these have served as the justification for many of our present concerns about the longer term consequences of low fertility, leading to the use of expressions like “fertility implosion,” “baby deficit” and fears of a longer term ongoing population decline. Such concerns about lew fertility and its consequences are really nothing new, since similar concerns were already being expressed about low birth rates and their consequences in the 1920s and 1930s in a variety of countries ranging from France and Sweden to the United States (indeed to some extent it was this early arrival of below replacement fertility which lead France and Sweden to introduce the early versions of their pro-natalist policies). These early concerns were largely to disappear with the arrival of the post WWII baby booms.

Essentially Sobotka questions the usefulness of such stylised facts since he argues that, in the first place European fertility rates are not uniformly low - and even less is is it the case that lowest-low fertility is "spreading" across Europe (although it may be spreading out of Europe to other parts of the globe, and especially Asia). In particular there is strong regional variation in fertility patterns across Europe - and it is not at all clear that the longer term measure of completed cohort fertility is still declining in many European societies. Given this, the second stylised fact becomes questionable, since although ageing is a given for all developed economies as life expectancy rises, the rapidity of this ageing depends on the levels of achieved fertility and the levels of inward "replacement" migration, and neither of these are givens. So we don't necessarily simply have to sit back and accept that we are - as societies - ageing rapidly. Of course if we have ongoing low fertility, and we do simply sit back on our laurels and fail to react - as Germany, Italy and Japan are discovering to their cost - rapid ageing is the more or less inevitable consequence.

Lastly Sobotka would like to challenge the third idea - that such rapid ageing processes represent severe challenges to our economies, our labour markets and our welfare systems. Here his argument, such as he presents it, seems to be on much weaker ground, and looking at the three leading rapid agers it is hard to argue that their economies and institutions remain unaffected, even if a good of time and energy could be expended arguing about whether or not these countries are on sustainable paths in the long run.

In order to challenge the first two stylised facts Sobotka lists a number of hypotheses which he considers to be worth testing in order to examine the validity of the stylised facts under review. He suggests that:

- Extremely low period fertility rates are linked to fertility postponement and are likely to be temporary

- Pronounced regional differences are likely to prevail

- Second Demographic Transition is not necessarily linked to below-replacement fertility

- Immigration can substitute most or all of the births ‘missing’ due to below-replacement fertility

- Very low fertility and the prospects of population decline do not constitute an all-European problem.

- as a consequence fears of a European population implosion seem exaggerated

To illustrate his case Sobotka divides the old European Union 15 into four regions -North, South, German Speaking and West. As he shows in the following chart, we can discern very pronounced differences in fertility across the regions of Europe.

It is clear that treating the European Union as a single entity for demographic purposes is a rather dubious procedure to say the least. Southern and German-speaking Europe stand out as having a very different fertility pattern from Northern and Western Europe, and the principal difficulty arises in determining why this should be. The position becomes even more complicated if we add-in Central and Eastern Europe, where the ferility pattern, at least on the surface, resembles that of Southern and German speaking-Europe.

One of the problems we encouter at this point is that of getting one single theory to fit all the available known facts. One possible way forward, as Sobotka suggests, is to try to link the arrival of very low fertility (let's say here below Tfr 1.5) with the spread of the one-child family model. This seems to work in some cases, but runs into the important exception of the German-speaking countries and some parts of central Europe (and possibly outside Europe with Japan) where what also seems to be important is the number of women who never have any children.

Clearly the Chinese case would fit this model, but since there are very unusual factors at work in the Chinese case I would not be in any hurry to draw any important conclusions from this. On the other hand a comparison of societies in terms of the proportions of women having children in the higher birth orders can also prove to be revealing. In some countries the number of women who now have one child, and one child only is now quite high, while in others (Scandinavia, for example, as exemplified by Norway in the chart below) it has fallen rather than risen in recent decades.

If we look at the Spanish case a bit more closely, and compare it with the Swedish one, we can see some interesting details. One of the questions which confronts us when we come to look at birth postponement and longer term completed cohort fertility levels is the question of birth "recovery" - or how many children women in the higher age groups actually have. Here Sobotka presents some interesting data, since we find that what makes the big difference between the near replacement fertility countries and the lowest low fertility ones is very often the number of children women over 30 actually have. So if we look at a comparison of the lifetime probability of having (nother) child among women aged 30 as between Spain and Sweden we see that the evolution of this probability has not been very different between one country and the other.

But if we then go on to examine the same question in terms of the probability of having second and third children a very different picture emerges. In both the transition from the first to second child and the transition from the second to third one Spain dropped below Sweden in the mid 1980s and - even though there has been some slight recovery since the late 1990s - has remained significantly below ever since.

Is European Fertility Declining or Rebounding?

The next important question is to determine whether or not longer term fertility - the so called completed cohort fertility, as opposed to the shorter term, period, Tfr) - will continue to decline, or has actually stabilised. The answer to this difficult but necessary question is that it is still too early to say. We need to see data from at least one or two more cohorts to get a better picture, and since one cohort completes every five years, we are not going to get any definitive indication anytime soon. But we also know that - such concerns apart - longer term completed cohort patterns are not the same across countries, and once again Southern and German-speaking Europe seem to show a different, and more worrying, pattern to that of Western Europe and Scandinavia.

Sobotka enters into quite a bit of detail on the various techniques that have been developed to try and get a better measure of real period fertility (and this is hardly surprising since this is one of his specialist areas). There is no real consensus on techniques at the present time, but we do have some sort of reasonable idea of the order of magnitude of the tempo effect.

(click on image for better viewing)

The upshot really is that what is important is the depth and duration of the postponement transitition. As Sobotka himself points out the gap between the period TFR and the cohort CTFR may persist for a period of anything up to 30-40 years, and as such this is hardly a mere blip. We need to think seriously about the population structure effects of such a long drawn out process. And we still don't know how high average first birth ages can rise, so it is hard even to reach any form of meaningful conclusion about duration of the tempo effect as between countries, although we obviously do know that the effect is present and may well not be benign.

So much for the great unknowns. But what about what we already do know? Well we know that during the years of the postponement transition we have a phenomenon of "missing births" (which makes its presence felt at the level of maintaining a replacement-fertility-driven stable population pyramid), and we do know that one way of adressing this deficit is via increased immigration.

It is clear that immigration has an impact on childbearing trends and patterns in the receiving countries. Among other considerations it is obviously hardly coincidental that the two countries who have come closest to achieveing replacement fertility - France and the United States - have both experienced significant levels of inward migration (although, of course, in both cases migration alone is far from providing a complete explanation of the high levels of achieved fertility). Immigration may operate on fertility via two mechanisms: the migrants themselves may come from countries with higher fertility levels, and the new migrants may be strongly concentrated in child bearing ages. This latter factor clearly does not have a direct impact on the period Tfr in and of itself, but it does affect the annual flow of births, and in this sense may have a direct impact on the birth deficit.

Thus while the volume of migration at the levels postulated in the original UN proposal may be so large as to be politically and culturally unthinkable (and is in no case a substitute for addressing the underlying phenomenon of low fertility) it may well be that ‘replacement migration‘ in this more restricted sense could be very valuable, especially since the impact of immigration acts not only on fertility but also on population size, slowing aging and reducing the pace of any decline.

One big problem in determining the size of the impact of migration on fertility is that there is a lack of comparative cross-country data, since comparatively few studies have been carried out. Also there is a problem of definition. Who should be included, (all) immigrant women (or men), foreigners only, first generation, or second and third generation, legal and illegal etc? The use of data equating immigrants with foreigners is also problematic, especially in countries with high rates of naturalisations .

Measurement of Tfrs and age-specific fertility rates may also be problematic, especially for recent immigrants (and hence also for the 'foreign'nationality women). Also the event of migration is frequently interrelated with family formation and childbearing: immigrant fertility is also strongly dependant on timein the receiving country since immigration. Migrants period fertility rates may often be particularly high when short-duration stays are involved.

The net impact of immigrant women on Tfrs is hard to determine, but key factors are clearly the proportion of total births which are to immigrant women and the extent of fertility differences between immigrant and ‘native born' women.

So advancing the discussion somewhat since the times of the UN report - Replacement migration: Is it a solution to declining and ageing poplation (2000) - we could say that a new consensus may be emerging that migration cannot stop population ageing (since there is only a modest impact in slowing-down the process ) but that immigration may well be able to substitute for most of the birth-deficit even in countries with very low fertility (Spain, and even Italy?). Clearly the role which immigration can play depends crucially on the fertility rate in the migrant sending country. Thus migrants arriving in Spain from relatively high fertility Latin American countries like Ecuador or Brazil may have much more impact on the Tfr than those coming from very low fertility countries in Eastern Europe like Bulgaria and Romania. A French-German comparison might well prove useful here, since from the mid 1980s onwards Germany may well have received more migrants than France, but given that the origin countires of most of these migrants have themselves had low fertility, this has had only a limited impact on the fertility readings.

This factor needs to be thought about carefully in those Eastern European societies who themselves are looking presently for replacement inward migration to bolster up their limited local labour forces, since often it is assumed that migrants from countries further east like Russia, Ukraine or Moldova might plug the gap, but all these societies are themselves very low fertility ones.

What about European global demographic and economic marginalisation?

Surprisingly, having made such a strong case that what is most important about the European fertility picture is the extent of the regional varaince, Sobotka goes on to suggest that in terms of population and global influence an EU-US comparison is not only useful, it is also meaningful. Especially is this surprising when he goes on to argue that territorial expansion rather than fertility has enabled the EU to surpass the US in terms of population growth and (and I quote) "to keep pace with its economic power". Personally I think this kind of comparison is virtually useless, and doubly so in the context of a fertility analysis.

And the comparison becomes doubly problematic when it is applied to economic prowess. If I reproduce his arguments here, then it is only because they are sufficiently widespread to at least merit being refuted. If we look at the chart below, which in some sort of spurious way makes a PPP EU-US comparison, I am quite happy to say that this type of comparison has no worthwhile interpretive reading whatsoever, even if some of the people based in Brussels are fond of hearing it.

The whole process that Sobotka gets into here, and as I emphasise I respect him greatly as a demographer, and as an analyst of the postponement process, seems to me to be at best well off the point (since it seems to open up some of that good old EU-US football rivalry, when what we should be trying to do is understand what is going on in all our interests) and at worse totally illegitimate, since he had just spent the best part of his presentation stressing the strong regional differences across Europe, and how, in this sense, and idea of Europe-wide anything is likely to be pretty much a useless piece of information. And so it is in this case, as I will now argue on the basis of the charts below.

As Sobotka has stressed we have very significant differences in fertility levels between advanced countries at the present time, and these fertility differences tend to translate themselves into very different dynamics when it comes to population growth and ageing rates. So it is here that the inter-country (and possibly inter-regional within-country) differences appear to matter. If we look at a comparison of population growth rates as between Germany, Japan and the US the reason I am saying this should begin to become clearer.

The same sort of comparison may be made between the UK, France and Italy.

Or between Germany, the UK and France.

What is clear is that while population in the UK, France and the US is still growing significantly, in Italy, Germany and Japan it has become almost completely stationary. And the reason why we are seeing such differences in population growth rates is not that hard understand, since the UK, France and the US are all ageing much less rapidly than Germany, Japan and Italy, and the principal explanation for this slower ageing is the relative fertility between these countires.

And this inter-country comparison is interesting, since, when we break per capita GDP growth rates down by country, we find a rather surprising result: those developed countries who have the highest population growth rates also have the highest per capita GDP growth rates. So in economic terms arguably differential fertility does matter, and much more than Sobotka seems to imagine. Lets look at the charts.

The position is pretty clear: since the mid 1990s the relative position of Germany, Italy and Japan in terms ofg PPS per capita has deteriorated considerably. But if we come to the UK, the US and France we find something very different, they all reveal a pretty similar pattern, barring the odd detail here and there, and that is that they have more or less maintained there relative position, and in any event they have all done much better than any of the previous three.

These charts are based on data prepared by Eurostat, and show the volume index of GDP per capita as expressed in Purchasing Power Standards (PPS) (with the European Union - EU-27 - average set at 100). If the index of a country is greater than 100, then this country's level of GDP per capita is higher than the EU average and, below 100 the position is vice-versa. The basic data is expressed in PPS which thus becomes a kind of common currency eliminating differences in price levels between countries in the process making possible meaningful volume comparisons of GDP between countries. Please note that the index, since it is calculated from PPS figures and expressed with respect to EU27 = 100, is valid for cross-country comparison purposes rather than for individual country inter-temporal comparisons. Nonetheless these charts are extraordinarily revealing.

As we can see the high-population-growth (near replacement fertility) group maintains its relative GDP per capita position reasonably intact, while in the the case of the low-to-declining-population growth (lowest-low fertility) group it steadily deteriorates. As we can see, in PER CAPITA income growth terms all three of the former hold their comparative position much better than all (or any) of the latter three.

The implications of all this are really quite profound. While - for catch up growth reasons - we should only expect that developed societies should lose their relative standing vis a vis emerging economies, we would never have imagined that one group among the more established economies should be losing impetus when measured against another group, and that this difference should be reasonably correlated with both population growth and rates of ageing. This should I would hope strike some at least among those of you reading this as a rather interesting result. It appears then population median age does seem to matter, and is going to be an important conditioner on the way in which relative living standards evolve. I clearly cannot go into this more here, since the post is already way too long, but I am chipping away at getting through to the underlying economic theory which is involved here in this post.


1/ Very low fertility is not an all-European problem, nor is it of course an exclusively European one.
2/ A new heterogeneity and new cleavages are emerging in Europe
3/ We have a comparatively high fertility belt‘ - the Nordic countries plus North-western Europe (Benelux, FR, UK, IRE) with Tfrs in the 1.7-2.0 region, and adjusted Tfrs and cohort CTFRs around 1.9, with replacement or above-replacement migration levels.

Then we have a low fertility-high, comparatively high recent migration group in Southern Europe (Italy, Spain, Greece).

Then there is a very long term low fertility, medium migration group, with the special characteristic that much of the migration has been from societies which themselves have low fertility (Switzerland, Austria, Western Germany).

And finally a very low fertility (adjusted TFR 1.5) - emigration group. This is a very dangerous mix, suggesting strong negative population momentum and rapid population decline (East Germany, Baltic countries, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Russia)

All countries face longer run ageing problems which will in no case be negligable. The first group should however be better equipped to handle the problems posed. The intermediate group will be faced with important welfare sustainability and economic growth issues which it is not clear at this point how they are going to resolve. In the case of the last of the above group of countries and region very low fertility may seriously undermine social dynamic and prosperity in even the relatively short term.


Anonymous said...

What statistical data is available for the comparative fertility of different ethnic groups within the US, UK and France?

Edward Hugh said...

hello Georges,

"What statistical data is available for the comparative fertility of different ethnic groups within the US, UK and France?"

Well this varies from country to country. The US data is pretty systematic, and can be found by following through the annual births links here. For the UK data is available, but researchers have to dig it out. One example can be found here. In the case of France my impression is - someone please correct me if I am wrong - that there is no official data whatsoever, and researchers have to reconstruct fertility rates by using indirect approaches, such as you can find in this classic piece of research (I don't know whether, despite your internet name you read french) by Toulemon and Mazuy.

Anonymous said...

If you look at the chart entitled "Proportion of Childless Women by Birth Cohort," the childless percentage for women born in 1975 is about what it was for women born almost a century earlier.

Anonymous said...


Wikipedia has a breakdown of the French tfr by ethnic group, at least from 91-98. Women born in France had a tfr of 1.7, whereas immigrant women had a tfr of 2.16. European immigrants tended to have lower fertility than French natives, whereas North African and American immigrants had higher fertility levels. Unsurprisingly, Turks got the crown.

An excellent report came out on the fertility situation in the UK recently showing 1) that 25% of all births are to foreign mothers and 2) the breakdown of fertility rates by country of origin. I seem to recall that Pakistani fertility rates were through the roof. Shouldn't be too hard to google if you have the initiative.

Edward Hugh said...

Hi Peter,

"If you look at the chart entitled "Proportion of Childless Women by Birth Cohort," the childless percentage for women born in 1975 is about what it was for women born almost a century earlier."

Oh yes, I think this would be the point. These cohorts were to some extent the first world war cohorts, were women would remain spinsters due to the shortage of men to marry. I say to some extent since in some countries there may always have been countries were more women remained unmarried, I don't know enough to go as far as to say that.

Of course, during the first half of the 20th century this isssue was masked by the relatively larger number of 3rd, 4th births etc among the women who did have children, so fertility remained highish. Now this is not the case.

The point I think would be, that we are back were we were, but this time there hasn't been a war.

Unknown said...

Before I read your analysis of Sobtka's work, I'll guess that he is pretty optimistic when he says that "The fears of European population implosion seem exaggerated ".
I rather would say that it seems too underestimated! May reference hereby are not statistics but the situation in the field where I see way too much boys and girls in 30thies without any plans of establishing a family.
And now let me read your analysis

Edward Hugh said...

Hi antiglobalist:

"I rather would say that it seems too underestimated!"

Well, if we are talking about the impact of these changes on economy and society, I would agree with you, Sobotka does seem to undetrestimate the significance and importance of some of the changes that are taking place, and in that sense he is moderately critical of a demographer like Wolfgang Lutz (who is of course his colleague in the Vienna Institute), since Lutz doesn't seem to underestimate the importance of all this.

But I wanted to draw attention to the details of Sobotka's analysis rather than his own opinions, since I think he works quite professionally, and that the details are interesting.

I would say I am trying to get at 2 points.

1) Differential fertility rates do matter. So while it is not true that ALL of Europe has a big problem, some countries ane regions evidently do. So we need to be more discriminating in the use of arguments. France obviously has a reasonably healthy demographic profile, and if Claus and I are right may well weather the coming recession rather better than Germany and Italy do. It will be an interesting test to see whether or not this is the case. At the moment demand in France is holding up quite well, but I am sure she will follow the others down at some point, the question is how far down, and for how long. This is the whole point about the charts on GDP at the end of the post.

ii) Immigration doesn't solve the low fertility issue, but it can help plug gaps during the postponement process.

But.... to do this adequately you need immigrants from higher fertility societies, not lower fertility ones. Eastern Europe is a case in point, but Iran or Turkey (where fertility now in both cases is below replacement) are hardly ideal.

Randy is doing some work on Estonia right now, and Estonia suffers from quite low fertility. Estonia receives immigrants, but from Russia. European Russians have lower fertility than Estonians, so rather than raising fertility they lower it.

Of course the big issue which then looms is the extent of the cultural distance between the sending and the receiving culture, so evidently there is no "ideal" solution to this problem. The only real solution is to find a way to raise fertility in the longer term, since I don't mind saying it outright: what is happening now in Germany is completely unsustainable.

Randy McDonald said...

I plan on making the Estonian research Edward's talking about into a blog posting, hopefully sooner than later. Suffice it to say that not only have ethnic Estonian TFRs been consistently 10-15% higher than Russophone TFRs since the 1950s or even 1940s and Estonian mortality rates significantly lower than Russophone mortality rates, but that Russophones living in Estonian-majority counties seem to adopt demographic behaviours relatively closer to those of ethnic Estonians.

Randy McDonald said...

As an aside, it's wort noting that immigrant fertility worldwide, but
particularly in the United States and France, might be biased upwards
by provisions in nationality laws which grant citizenship to children
born in a country, as a manifestation of the jus soli principle. This
principle is still intact in American nationality law, less so in French nationality law since 1992 reforms. If one wants to remain in a country with a jus soli citizenship law, why not become a parent and count on not being separated from your citizen child? This incentive won't exist in later generations.

It's worth noting that immigrants from other European countries and
from Turkey seem to manifest significantly different TFRs than their counterparts from the African continent and the rest of the world. Something unique to France is influencing
fertility processes, then, likely a combination of cultural and political factors.

Anonymous said...

Russia will be an interesting case in point. Could that country be the second country after Estonia to climb out of the lowest-low fertility rates? In 2007, Russia had more than 1,6m births, up by 125 000 from last year and the highest ever since the Soviet collapse.

Randy McDonald said...

Russia could be, and it's worth noting at present that some subpopulations in Russia--the Chechens, for instance--have above-replacement TFRs. I wouldn't bet on it, if only because families in Russia are characterized by the same high marriage rates and low rates of childbearing that seem to contribute to low fertility in southern Europe and elsewhere.

Scott said...

Excellent point on the jus soli incentive, Randy...I quoted you here.

Edward Hugh said...

Marco raises a good point.

"Russia will be an interesting case in point. Could that country be the second country after Estonia to climb out of the lowest-low fertility rates?"

The actual volume of births may be quite an unreliable indicator about longer term changes in fertility, since, as I say, in part it depends on postponement rates and in part on the size of earlier generations. So I think we will need to wait to see longer term trends here. However Russia is one to watch.

Randy's argument about the ethnic sub-components in Russian fertility also seems relevant. Wikipedia has a breakdown here, and obviously the Chechens stand out, though since they are such a small proportion of the total population (see Wikipedia here) they are unlikely to exert a very big impact on the aggregate number.

More important may be the impact of fertility from the main migrant groups, who are now lead by Uzebekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. Getting presise numbers is hard, but an estimate of the importance of this phenomenon can gleaned from an October 2007 report by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)which highlighted the dependence of these economies on remittances sent back by migrants, and in particular: Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. IFAD says that money received from labor emigrants and other nationals abroad was equal to roughly one-third of the Tajik and Kyrgyz gross domestic products - 36.7 and 31.4 percent, respectively - in 2006. The IFAD also noted that Uzbeks abroad sent about $2.9 billion back home - representing about 17 percent of Uzbekistans GDP in 2006.

It may well be that many of these migrants are irregular, and unlikely to become Russian citizens, but their children may well be born in Russia, and thus show up in the annual birth statistics. Something similar has happened in Spain, although Spain is steadily opening the doors to the regularisation of irregulars.

So it would be interesting to know just how many of those extra 125,000 babies were born to migrant mothers. This would then give a better idea of what was actually happening to native Russian fertility.

Another situation which it occurs to me would be worth looking at is Greece, since Greece has received quite a lot of migrants since the late 1990s, and the vast majority of these have come from Albania where fertility rates are - at least for the time being - higher.

Edward Hugh said...

Well, in case anyone is interested, I just answered my own question. I found an article on migrant and native fertility in Greece. Actually it is pretty much what we would have expected based on the way the conversation has been going here, Bulgarians have lower fertility than native Greeks, and Albanians higher, Also they report that over time the diverse ethnic groups are coming nearer to the Greek average. So it does matter where your migrants come from, but the "bang for the buck" doesn't last very long seems to be the message. Of course Randy's point about France might well be that migrants there would move towards the French general pattern, which means that we shouldn't be immediately optimistic about the fertility of migrants arriving in Bulgaria as a positive factor, unless the Bulgarians themselves manage to shift their underlying fertility upwards.

Anyway, for what it is worth, here is the abstract to the Greek study.

This article examines fertility patterns and differentials between native women, and Albanian and Bulgarian immigrants, using data from the 2001 census of Greece on the reported numbers of children ever-born alive by citizenship. The analysis focuses on changing fertility timing and quantum of women born between 1950 and 1970, and reveals that cohort fertility is highest among Albanians and lowest among Bulgarians, while levels for native women are somewhere in between. Completed cohort fertility is decreasing over time for all nationalities, while the gap observed among the ethnic groups has been narrowing. Evidence based on the 2001 censuses of Albania and Bulgaria indicates that immigrants in Greece constitute, to some extent, selected groups, compared to the inhabitants of their countries of origin.

Edward Hugh said...

Also I just found a number for Russian migrants which I hadn't seen before (in this article).

Until this year, almost all foreign employees in Russia were part of the "grey" economy. They were exploited by businesses, paid miserable wages and were vulnerable to harassment by the Russian police. To give them legal status, the Russian Parliament passed a law in January 2007 that sets quotas nationally and by region. This year, the quota was 6.1 million workers, with 700,000 for Moscow, according to Andrei Markov, a World Bank human development specialist.

Now these are the legal quotas, but not everyone in Russia - as is well known - is legal. There is a very large Chinese workforce - for example - in Siberia, and only a small part of this appears to have been regularised. In particular because:

It can take weeks for migrants to move through waiting lists at the Federal Migration Service, during which they cannot be legally employed or housed. "The law is still raw,"

So we could estimate that there are something like 10 million migrant workers currently in Russia. Many of these will have left their wives and families back home, but by no means all will have done so. Again, we simply do not seem to have numbers to get a clearer picture here.

Incidentally the IHT article is not too bad, and is running some of the same arguments I expound at much greater length in my "Russian Inflation, Too Much Money Chasing Too Few People?" post.

Edward Hugh said...

Well sorry to be banging up the comments column, but this topic has got me moving and I am busy Googling, and I just found this old study on Germany which really confirms what we are saying, and gives some indication of the extent of the fertility problem which there is in Germany right now.

The Fertility of Migrants Before and After Crossing the Border: The Ethnic German Population from the Former Soviet Union as a Case Study, by R.H. Dinkel & U.H. Lebok.

Here's the abstract:

Empirical data on persons of German ethnic origin migrating to Germany from the former Soviet Union are used to calculate their relative ferility levels before and after arriving in their new host country. Despite small numbers in the survey , a suitable method was used to effecitvely compare fertility before and after crossing the border with an index measure of national fertility rates. A relatively strong fertility decline was observed for German origin migrants (Aussiedler) from the former Soviet Union during their first years in Germany. More interesting, we consider, is how and to what extent the change in living conditions affected reproductive behaviour after arrival in Germany. Surprisingly, the fertility of this former high-fertility population fell to a level much lower than the already low German fertility. The extraordinarily high fertility levels of certain religious groups within the former Soviet Union fell even more rapidly after arrival in their new home country. The results of the study may shed light on another development in Germany: that immediately after reunification the total fertility rate in the former GDR fell to the extremely low level of about 0.6 in 1993 and 1994. The experience of the former East German population is therefore similar to that of German-origin migrants from the former Soviet Union.

So I really think that it is time I corrected something I wrote earlier up the comments thread:

"Immigration doesn't solve the low fertility issue, but it can help plug gaps during the postponement process. But.... to do this adequately you need immigrants from higher fertility societies, not lower fertility ones."

What we seem to be seeing is that your own domestic patterns also matter, and that some aspects of the situation become win-win, in that if you have relatively high native fertility, and attract migrants from relatively high fertility societies (the US and Latinos is of course a good example here) then this is the best path of all.

So those - like Germany and Japan -who have endemic low fertility already, need migrants with higher fertility patterns BUT they also need to make important fertility related cultural changes too. If not........

And those of you who are wondering about why the hell all this matters, go back to the original post and look at those comparative per capita income charts. For pension and health systems in Japan and Germany to become sustainable something needs to happen. Better put it should already have happened, but still, the longer people keep saying "it doesn't matter" the worse it is going to get.

Somehow it seems to me to be deeply symbolic that while all the attention is currently focused on the fact that the US economy is in all likelihood entering recession right now, very little ink indeed is being spilt on the fact that Germany and Japan are also doing so, and without domestic sub-prime housing busts. Why? Because their economies are endemically dependent on exports for economic growth, and they dependent on exports because, quite simply, they have allowed themselves to age - as populations - too fast.

Edward Hugh said...

Well, I have just discovered another relevant study, this time on Spain. The authors are studying Gambians, for the simple reason that Gambians are unusual among migrants in Spain, since they still retain a relatively high fertility rate:

High fertility Gambians in low fertility Spain:The dynamics of child accumulation across transnational space

And I quote:

What is so striking about Gambians in Spain is that they appear to have by far the highest fertility rates for any national group in the country. Based on the 2001 census, we estimated the total fertility rate of the Gambian-born population, using the “ownchild” method, to be 3.67 children per woman for the period 1996-2000. Gambians have a TFR in Spain that is much lower than in The Gambia: 5.46 in 2004.14 Still, it is considerably higher than any other immigrant group of any numerical significance. Senegalese are next with a TFR of just 1.92, followed by Moroccans and Algerians with 1.50 and 1.28, respectively.

So Moroccans have a fertility of 1.5 in Spain, much lower than in France I think - and lower, of course than in Morocco - which sort of reinforces even further Randy's point that the local fertility culture matters. Moroccans are reasonably significant in this context since they have been coming to Spain since the early 1990s. Also, as must be evident, the data in Spain is reasonably clear since we are talking about first generation migrants, and the question of "naturalisations" hasn't had time to raise its head sufficiently to confuse things.

CV said...

Very interesting exchange as always ...

Actually, I may be sitting on a missing link here since I have a paper on my drive which specifically addresses (or tries to operationalize) the effect on fertility from migration. It actually postulates that Spain has had above replacement fertility as a result of the migration flows. I am not sure about methodology they use yet but I will have a closer look and then I will come in with a post here. The thing is, as also indicated by Edward's links. There are dual processes at work I think.

Firstly, what is the extent to which immigrations bring with them their native fertility behaviour (i.e. as with the Russophones in Estonia) and what is the extent to which the immigrants are assimilated into the existing fertility regime in the receiving country? I mean, this may be a win-win situation for some receiving countries in the sense that the immigrants themselves adopt the fertility behaviour of the country to which they are going. Thus, if you are France or the UK you are in a good position.

I am putting this forward since I saw a small piece on the BBC a while ago which suggested that births were on the rise amongst Eastern Europeans residing in the UK. Of course, these are the kinds of issues we, here at DM, feel the World Bank should have treated in their big piece on migration flows in the CEE economies since it is a damn important perspective.The point is I think that Estonia would like to 'import' migrants from high fertility countries as an all things equal alternative to importing from Russia where fertility is lower. However, what are the dynamics between the behavior which the migrants bring with them from home and the behavior already existing in the receiving country? And lastly and ever so important, what is the rate of 'convergence' so to speak, if at all(?), to the receiving country's fertility regime. The paper Edward notes on Greece seems to offer some initial evidence.


Unknown said...

for Russia, I would add, that as we know they have a low life expectancy. If we take aside how cruel it may sound, but that can be also a positive thing, cant it? They wont have the burden of a big pensioning community - especially if they really manage to get back to replacement levels (hereby don't forget that Putin is the only leader in the world who addressed the problem of demographic restauration as the major national problem right now)

Anonymous said...

@antiglobalist: there are two ways life expectancy affects the dependency ratio. Firstly children are dependants: this is a serious burden in countries with high fertility and low life expectancy, and partly explains why they have so much difficulty creating a functioning education system. As a result the population is stuck at the bottom of the skills ladder (which unfortunately seems to lead to high fertility in the next generation, creating the high fertility trap.) Secondly, people tend to be too weak or ill to work for a period at the end of their life - all of us die somehow, but relatively few die suddenly. The real cost of too many old people comes from the ones who have chronic and expensive to treat illnesses which are nevertheless not immediately fatal. So if life expectancy is low due to 60-year-olds getting shot in the head, then yes, it does reduce the level of dependency. (If it's young people getting shot, as is the case in reality, it increases dependency because they spend so much of their lives as children.) But if life expectancy is low due to cancer, AIDS or alcoholism, it means there are also large numbers of people who are unable to work but still alive, and they have to be looked after somehow.

Unknown said...

@colin reid,
Hi, I see your point, however I'm not too convinced into it. For one thing, don't underestimate the pension costs. If one goes to retirement with 60 years, and receives pension for another 30years till his final age of 90: I don't think that this can bi insignificant.
A research is required to be more certain about the "pro's" and "con's" of long life expectancy - of course such research would be political incorrect :)