Joint meeting April 26 2005

British Society for Population Studies (BSPS) and International Longevity Centre UK (ILC-UK)

Tuesday 26th April 2005
British Telecom Centre, 81 Newgate Street, London EC1A 7AJ

The aim of the Conference was to look at:
§ Low fertility: the current situation and likely future position
§ What are current European government views on low fertility & do policy interventions work?
§ The changing role of the family and the state.
§ Causes and consequences of lower and later fertility


11.00-11.40 Tomáš Sobotka (Research Scientist at Vienna Institute of Demography) Low and later fertility in Europe: recent trends and future prospects.

11.40-12.20 Emily Grundy (Professor of Demographic Gerontology, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine) and Cecilia Tomassini (Senior Research Officer, ONS) Fertility histories and health in mid and later life: are there health benefits from delayed motherhood?

12.20-1.0 Mike Murphy (Professor of Demography, London School of Economics) What are the implications of twentieth century fertility for kin availability in the twenty-first century? A comparison of Britain, Finland and France.

1.00-2.00 LUNCH

2.00-2.40 Paul Boyle, Elspeth Graham (and Zhiqiang Feng ) (University of St.Andrews), Fertility variations in Scotland: causes, concerns and policy options.

2.40-3.20 Linda Hantrais (Professor of European Social Policy, Loughborough University) Policy responses to changing patterns of family formation in Europe.

3.20-3.40 Discussion.
3.40-3.50 Thanks

Abstracts and Biographical Details

Low and later fertility in Europe: recent trends and future prospects Dr. Tomáš Sobotka, Vienna Institute of Demography


Period fertility rates in many European societies have declined to record-low levels. But how low these levels actually are depends partly on the measurement perspective used. The persistent shift of parenthood towards later ages distorts the commonly used total fertility rates, which thus constitute a problematic indicator of period fertility level. Employing diverse fertility indicators, especially parity-specific ones, and looking both at the period and cohort perspective, I illustrate that period fertility rates in many countries are higher than the total fertility rates suggest. At the same time, there is considerable cross-country variation in the level of fertility, parity distribution of childbearing, as well as in the extent of fertility 'postponement' and subsequent 'recovery' among women past age 30. Besides mapping general trends in period fertility, I pay attention to the shifting timing of childbearing towards later reproductive ages and to the trends in cohort childlessness. I underline different regional contexts of fertility decision-making and point out some specific features of fertility patterns in England and Wales. Finally, I put forward selected arguments suggesting a moderate increase in fertility; at least when measured by the total fertility rates, and discuss the possible role of governments in this process.

Biographical Details

Received MA in demography at Charles University in Prague in 1999 and PhD in Demography at the University of Groningen, the Netherlands, in November 2004. His PhD thesis, titled "Postponement of childbearing and low fertility in Europe" analyses the shift towards later timing of parenthood in Europe and its impact on period fertility rates (see ). Since July 2004 employed as a researcher at the Vienna Institute of Demography, and since Autumn 2004 he is the Managing Editor of the Vienna Yearbook of Population Research
His research interests include:
· Fertility changes in advanced societies
· Low fertility and delayed parenthood
· Demography of Central and Eastern Europe
· Second demographics transition
· Cohabitation and changes in living arrangements
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Fertility histories and health in mid and later life: are there health benefits from late motherhood? Emily Grundy, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and Cecilia Tomassini, ONS.


There are some theoretical reasons for thinking that having children at relatively advanced ages might have some consequences for health and mortality in later life. However both theories and available evidence are often conflicting and many empirical studies have not included adequate control for socio-economic factors. In this paper we will use data from the ONS Longitudinal Study to analyze later health and mortality patterns of 'late mothers' - those who had a child at age 40 or older - compared with women who completed their fertility at earlier ages.

Biographical Details

Emily Grundy is Professor of Demographic Gerontology in the Centre for Population Studies at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and leads the group which provides support to academic users of the ONS Longitudinal Study (CeLSIUS). Most of her research has been concerned with various aspects of ageing and she is particularly interested in differentials in health in later life by socio-economic and family related factors. She is Chair of the European Association for Population Studies working group of demographic change and the support of older people and on the editorial board of the European Journal of Ageing.
Cecilia Tomassini, PhD, is a Senior Research Officer in the Population and Demography Division of the Office for National Statistics and a Research Fellow at the Centre for Population Studies at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. She is a demographer with particular interest in family and social networks at older ages, intergenerational transfers, twins, household projections and determinants of mortality at older ages. She is involved in several European projects on the living conditions of older people.

What are the implications of twentieth century fertility for kin availability in the twenty-first century? A comparison of Britain, Finland and France. Mike Murphy, LSE


Whether an individual has one or more surviving children at a given age and/or a surviving parent depends both on fertility (not only number of children, but also timing of childbearing) and mortality. We consider the contribution of changes in mortality and both tempo and quantum of fertility to past and likely future trends of such kin availability in three contemporary developed countries, Britain, Finland and France, which have exhibited rather different patterns over the last 80 years. We apply historical demographic data and mortality projections to birth history data to undertake the calculations. We estimate the proportion of people in birth cohorts between 1920 and 2000 who have or will have a mother alive at when they are aged up to 80, and the proportions of women of birth cohorts in the period 1920 to 1960 at ages from 40 to 90, who with various numbers of surviving children. We find that the proportion of people aged 60 with a mother alive will more than double between those born in 1911 and 1970 in all countries, before declining slightly due to the rising average age at childbearing in the last three decades, so that the figure will increase for at least the next 30 years. While there are increasing concerns about the availability of informal care for elderly people from children in the next quarter century or so, we conclude that these are overstated in that a higher proportion of elderly people are likely to have a surviving child than for any generation ever born in Western Europe in the next quarter century. While later figures depend increasingly on assumptions about future mortality, the more optimistic French assumptions lead to increasing divergence as compared with Britain and Finland over the 21st century.

Biographical Details

Mike Murphy is Professor of Demography at the London School of Economics. He is currently President of the British Society for Population Studies. He is Research Secretary of the Population Investigation Committee and an editor of Population Studies. His research interests include family demography, forecasting methodologies and micro simulation.

Fertility variations in Scotland: causes, concerns and policy options Paul Boyle, Elspeth Graham and Zhiqiang Feng, University of St Andrews


The demography of Scotland has attracted considerable attention from the Scottish Executive and the media alike. This has been stimulated by a number of factors, including the recognition that Scotland is the only Western European country with a declining population and that population is ageing particularly rapidly in Scotland compared to elsewhere in the UK. Current estimates suggest that there will be a quarter of a million fewer working-age people in Scotland by 2027. The main driver of Scotland's falling population is the low fertility rate (TFR of 1.48 in 2002), with the number of births having fallen by 21% since 1991.

This paper examines fertility in Scotland by disaggregating the national data and asking how fertility varies over time, across population groups and geographically within Scotland. On the one hand, low fertility is remarkably consistent across certain population groups. On the other hand, the number of births in the population shows significant geographical variation even when local age structures are taken into account. We argue that a local perspective on fertility can provide helpful insights into possible causes of fertility variation and raise concerns of interest to policy makers. We conclude with a discussion of policy options and the likely effectiveness of policy intervention in maintaining or increasing Scotland's fertility.

Biographical Details

Paul Boyle is Professor of Geography, Elspeth Graham is Reader in Geography and Zhiqiang Feng is a Research Fellow at the University of St Andrews. Paul is Director of the Longitudinal Studies Centre - Scotland, Deputy Director of the Census Interaction Data Service (CIDS) and co-editor of the journal Population, Space and Place. Paul and Elspeth have published on fertility issues in Scotland, including a chapter in the Annual Review of the Registrar General for Scotland, 2002. Elspeth has also published on fertility, family and population policies in Singapore. Zhiqiang has worked on a range of demographic topics and is currently contributing to the work of CIDS. All three are involved in projects, recently funded by the ESRC, which will focus on fertility issues in Scotland.


Policy responses to changing patterns of family formation and structure in Europe.
Linda Hantrais, Loughborough University.


The consequences of demographic change became an item on the European social policy agenda in the late 1980s and, since 1992, the European Commission has had a remit for monitoring and reporting on socio-demographic change. Not all governments, however, share the same concern about demographic trends and their implications for policy formulation. Nor has a consensus been reached either across or within countries about the role that governments can or should play in responding to social-demographic change and, even less so, about the effectiveness of policy measures in influencing patterns of family formation. The paper considers how national governments in EU member states have been reacting to recent trends in fertility, before going on to review some of the attempts made to assess the effects and effectiveness of policy responses.

Biographical Details

Linda Hantrais is Professor of European Social Policy in the European Research Centre, Department of Politics, International Relations and European Studies, Loughborough University. Her main research interests are in cross-national comparative research theory, methodology and practice, with particular reference to public policy and institutional structures in the European Union, and the relationship between socio-demographic trends and social policy. She co-ordinated a Framework Programme 5 project on policy responses to family change and has carried out a policy review on 'Family and Welfare' for DG Research in the European