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The Puzzle of the Recent Fertility Decline

What causes the decline in fertility? The aim of the project is to explain why the total fertility rate in Norway has declined over recent years and how this is connected with the development in other countries. The decline poses a threat to the welfare state in a long-term perspective, and more knowledge about the decline in the total fertility rate is therefore required.

About the project

The point of departure for the project is the observed decline in fertility rates in Norway and other Nordic countries since 2010. In Norway, the total fertility rate (TFR) has fallen continuously from 1.98 in 2009 to a historic low of 1.62 in 2017. The observed decline in fertility is unexpected and sharp, and similar changes are observed in Sweden, Finland, Iceland and Denmark. Such a synchronous development in neighbouring countries is unusual and can have long-term consequences.

There is great demand for more knowledge about the underlying mechanisms behind this change to develop suitable policy strategies. A decline in fertility accelerates the ageing of societies and poses a threat to long-term economic prosperity and the generational contract of the welfare state. Thus, there is need of more understanding about the fertility decisions among young men and women in Norway in a comparative perspective.


The primary objective of the project is to identify causes behind the recent decline in fertility in Norway compared with other European countries.

The secondary objectives of the project are:

  • Identify mechanisms behind the fertility decline in the Nordic countries and whether it is linked to increasing economic uncertainty following the global financial crisis in 2008.
  • Analyse the impact of developments in union dynamics, housing- an labour markets on the TFR in Norway.
  • Study the effect of perceived economic insecurity on childbearing plans in different social contexts.
  • Identify social differences in childbearing and pathways into low fertility in Europe.
  • Detect links between changing age norms and values and childbearing decisions in Europe.


Statistics Norway is the coordinating institute of the project. The University of Oslo is one of the consortium members.


The project is funded by The Research Council of Norway (FRISAM2). The total grant award was for NOK 10 000 000.


1 February 2019 - 31 January 2023.

Published Aug. 26, 2019 1:58 PM - Last modified Oct. 20, 2020 10:12 AM