In the wake of the financial crises in 2008, birth rates dropped across Europe, especially in the countries hit the hardest by austerity: Portugal, Spain, and, of course, Greece. But according to a new study by the Institut National de la Statistique et Des Études Économiques (Insee), one country kept their birth rates stable and managed a slight increase: France.
With a per-woman birthrate of 1.99 children, France has only been surpassed by Ireland, where birthrates rose on the back of the Celtic Lion before sinking back below the French birthrate. France hasn’t risen significantly above the two-child line since the mid-1970s, when the birthrate started to crash after that other unsustainable bubble of growth, the Baby Boom. While considerably lower than France’s, Germany’s birthrate has managed to stay stable overall.
What’s more, French women have managed to have their first babies are a relatively stable age, while the rest of Europe has seen women wait longer and longer to have children. The trend is still inexorably upward, as you can see from the chart, but only the United Kingdom has younger first-time mothers than France. The study attributes the overall rising trend to higher education’s delaying effect on parenthood. The most reliable ages in the chart come from France and Sweden, who also have the highest percentage of births outside of marriage.
The Insee study took Eurostat data on births and compared them to changes in consumer confidence indexes, per capita income, per capita disposable income. The correlations were sometimes compelling, but sometimes moved in complete independence from the birthrate. One thing is heartening, at least: no many how bad things get, people still find the time to make more people.